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A new approach
The increase of foreign tourists in recent years has brought about the increase in demand for a variety of new products on the market. These products will need to follow both trends, traditional and modern. They are required to be for modern usage but also feel like a traditional product.
In the current state, the Albanian artisans are unable to fulfill the market's demands. They lack production capacities and technical know how. The projects aim was to introduce the engineer and the designer to the production team. With the help of the two, the artisan would be able to produce high quality, practical and inexpensive products for the average tourist, and still be able to hold the cultural value of the product
In order to achieve the objective set by the client, the project had to be divided into smaller tasks for easy management. The tasks were as follows: research, concept, design, sourcing, training and production.
Research is an essential part of any project. Long before any designing has began, there is much studying to do about history, ethnography, and local traditions.
Arjela studied vernacular design patterns of the area and of Albania in general, she researched the old town for any distinctive and meaningful symbols that could be used in the products, and did historical as well as market research in order to identify which products would better fit the market.
The second phase, that of the creation of the concept is associated with the selection of the products for the collection. After much thought and analysis about issues such as costs and time, it was decided that the collection would consist mainly of accessories (ear rings, necklaces, bags, tea bags, scarfs etc.).
A careful analysis of Albanian folklore showed that decorative elements and patterns with time have become so complex that applying them to textile by hand would be time consuming and very expensive. So, in order to preserve their traditional characteristics, and to follow modern trends while at the same time reducing the amount of work need for each product, the motifs and patterns where simplified but to an extent where they still could be identified as traditional.
A very interesting phenomenon was observed during the training of the artisans. It was a clear demonstration of the impact that the old concepts still have on the artisan’s minds and it proved the importance of the project.
Within the first days of the training, while still in the process of cutting and sewing, the women started to lose interest in what they where doing and become negligent of their work. One day they began to express their doubts about what they thought was time being wasted with meaningless trivia.
Spending so much time and energy producing rugs and other complicated products, made them think of their work at the workshop as a child’s play. That is why the next morning Arjela went to the workshop a little earlier than usual and finished some of the products herself. The results were very positive. The women quickly understood the products and became aware of what they were doing.
In the following weeks, as a result of the training and the sharing of the know how, the women acquired new working methods and techniques; they learned how to choose colors and crochet models; what the client wants in terms of quality and design and how to calculate the price of their products. The creative environment and the feeling of cooperation helped them produce at much higher capacity then what they were used to in the past.
(Image captions: 1 - Old Town Gjirokaster; 2 - Ethnographic museum; 3 - The pomegranate, the symbol of fertility; 4 - simplified motif; 5 - Artisan women working together; 6 - Products exposed at the store; 7 - Arjela working on the paper patterns)