Captured stories about works crafted by hand remain for posterity as digital visual archives
Visual artist Rosina Pencheva and ambassador of Homo Faber for Sofia has created a digital photo diary which captures moments from her visits to the workshops of Bulgarian artisans of rare crafts.The photo study is entitled Crafted by Hand and is available for viewers online at At the beginning of every month, in the course of half a year, the photo diary will present an individual photo story with texts about master artisans. The first one features 39-year-old Gabrovian Hristo Totsev – dry stone walling artisan, and will be published on Nov. 1st.
The goal of Crafted by Hand is to rekindle interest in rare crafts in Bulgaria, preserve them via photography and inspire new opportunities for their development. The project raises questions about the reasons why a great many crafts in the country have been disappearing and why the continuity between generations of craftspeople has been broken. It seeks to answer what the ways are for the preservation of traditional crafts, and what kind of motivation drives young artisans to make headway in the area they choose. Crafted by Hand also explores the connection between crafts and sustainable living, as well as the trend of taking a journey back to the handmade.
“For the time being, the body of photography in Crafted by Hand features present-day artisans, however, in a long-term perspective it remains to serve as visual archives about them and their work. These are individuals sporting unique skills; they are “living human treasures” of Bulgaria. Along with the craft itself, I find it important to acquaint audiences with the personality of the artisan who practices it and with his work environment”, Rosina Pencheva, author and producer of the project, explains.
To illustrate the need for continuity, the diary includes artisans from different generations and visits to different parts of Bulgaria. The selection which rarely practiced crafts should be included and which skilled artisans should be presented has been made based on dedicated research by the photographer and with the assistance of the project’s partners. Each of the six selected trades is performed at a high professional level and by no more than 10 people in the country.
"Rosina has a great potential to present the intangible heritage such as crafts, in the best possible way. She has a keen eye for the detail; she is able to render them comprehensively in a photographic way and on top of that she can make suggestions with her imagery – revealing things beautiful, interesting and distinct, which people tend to overlook, more or less. Her work as an ambassador for the Michelangelo Foundation has opened up new horizons for her, because combining her photographer skills with discovering and presenting crafts is an extraordinary combination of capabilities which are worthwhile not only for the artisans, but also for our museum and for everyone with an attitude to crafts”, says Prof. Svetla Dimitrova, CEO of Etar Regional Ethnographic Open-Air Museum in Gabrovo, project partner and Bulgaria ambassador at the Homo Faber network.
Rosina Pencheva is a photographer with a remarkable flair and passion for capturing the creative processes in handicrafts and art. Her professional experience in this area began back in 2013. For over four years during that period, she worked as a state photographer at the Etar Museum.
“Crafted by Hand is a project in progress which collects visual records about Bulgarian artisans”, Rosina Pencheva adds.
In December the diary presents the true master of precious copper Petar Paunov (73) from Gabrovo – an innovator to both the decoration of copperware and the optimization of tools. In January next year is the turn of the first artisan in Bulgaria who works professionally in crafting classic two-piece briar tobacco pipes and co-founder of the Bulgarian Pipe Club, Georgi Todorov-Getz (51). February will come with the photo narrative about a man nominated for the national selection of “Living Human Treasures – Bulgaria”, 2022 – Hristo Marinov (67). He practices the only craft in which all processes take place on the spot, at the workshop of the artisan; and the youngest artisan, 32-year-old bookbinder and book artist Stopan from Sofia, will be in the spotlight in March. He has elevated bookbinding to new heights for Bulgaria. His work was selected for the exhibition Next
of Europe, Homo Faber Event 2022. The first stage of the project completes in April with the presentation of Deyan Denchev (49) – a master luthier from Razgrad. He fashions his own improved version of the traditional Bulgarian gadulka by using time-honored skills and materials in this handicraft, and is also six-time first prize holder for gadulka making at competitions for folk instrument artisans.
“The content of Crafted by Hand will be accessible online so as to reach the largest possible audience and will be kept forever at the archives of the Etar Museum. I plan to upgrade the project with a physical exhibition at a later stage”, Rosina Pencheva adds.
Crafted by Hand. Photo Diary is carried out with the kind cooperation of the Etar Regional Open-Air Museum (in Gabrovo – the Creative City of Crafts and Folk Arts in the UNESCO network), Michelangelo Foundation and Eight, a Bulgarian popular science magazine. The project is co-funded by the Municipality of Gabrovo’s program Culture 2022.
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