The COVID-19 pandemic hit Albania hard. Not so much in terms of cases and deaths, but in terms of the economic fallout. Thousands have lost their jobs or been forced to close businesses, many more don’t know if they will make it until the end of the year. Government assistance has been frugal and there has been no plan in place for one of the country’s main markets- tourism.
But it’s not just hotel, restaurants, and tourist spots that have felt the pinch, it’s smaller industries that rely on the influx of foreign people to sustain their work that has suffered as well. Take, for instance, Albania’s many artisans.
While there is a small, local market for Albanian craftsmanship, many of the produced items are sold to tourists and visitors looking to take a bit of Albania home with them. A lifeline for many families, the drop in sales has impacted thousands. But thankfully, a solution has been found.
Non-profit site Albartizan.al brings together a selection of Albanian artisans, craftspeople, artists, and creators in one place. Via their website, users from around the world can browse clothing, textiles, homeware, ceramics, jewellery and more and with one click can order for delivery in Albania or abroad.
The site is completely free for artisans to advertise on and the only criteria are that the items are handmade in Albania and are of exceptional quality.
Work included on the site comes from every corner of Albania and Kosovo and draws on both modern and traditional techniques. Items include apparel for men and women, bags and handbags, jewellery, brooches, headbands, kitchenware, tablecloths, cushion covers, frames, decorations, and even handwoven baby carriers.
Created by the people behind Artistike Zadrima, Albartizan comes from a love of sustainability, crafts, beautiful items and support for the development of the local community. They had the idea to bring a number of collaborators together in one place and also to reach out to others to ask them if they wanted to be involved as well. On the site, artisans from all over the country can showcase their work in a dedicated space where they can browse and buy, but also learn more about the artisans themselves.
As well as showing off beautiful items, the site includes a section where you can “meet the artisan”. Here you can see the name, photos and a bio of each individual, giving transparency and credibility to the project.
Not only is the portal a great way for foreigners and Albanians in the diaspora to connect with the country, but it increases the sustainability of the work each artisan does. After all, without a client base, there isn’t a need to produce products, and if products aren’t produced, we risk losing many of the skills and traditions that have been developed for generations.
More artisans will be added each week, broadening the scope of what’s on offer and providing a much-needed lifeline to artisans all over the country.