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TRADITIONAL CRAFTS AND TOURISM IN BULGARIA

Ilinka TERZIYSKA* The paper is focused on the opportunities that traditional crafts provide for tourism development in rural areas. Following a discussion of the possible forms of using crafts in tourism, an overview of the current situation in Bulgaria has been made, outlining the major problems and looking for their solution.

KEY WORDS: traditional crafts, creative tourism, rural areas Traditional crafts and tourism The last decades we have witnessed a gradual and steady change towards more sustainable practices in tourism development and the recognition that alternative forms of tourism can contribute to local development. Cultural tourism (and rural tourism in particular) is one of the opportunities for rural communities to generate incomes and improve their wellbeing. This is supported by the trend in tourism demand towards local, unique, authentic products. Another well-expressed trend of the last decade is the shift from tangible to intangible elements of culture, which can be seen in both demand and supply of cultural tourism products. People are increasingly interested in the spirit of a destination, in the lifestyle of local population, in their specific culture, manifested through traditions, customs, music and dance, narratives, crafts and everyday life. Organizations and governments are also getting aware of the value of intangible heritage and have made steps to safeguard it. At the international level, UNESCO has launched several initiatives in this regard, including the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003), which has already been ratified by 155 countries, among which is Bulgaria. The convention is rooted in the understanding of the importance of intangible cultural heritage for maintaining cultural diversity and ensuring sustainable development, while recognizing its interdependence with tangible cultural and natural heritage, and emphasizing the role of local communities. The basic objectives of the Convention are directed towards the safeguarding of intangible heritage, raising awareness of its value and ensuring respect among the parties concerned 1. The five domains of intangible heritage as identified by UNESCO are: oral traditions and expressions, including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage; performing arts; social practices, rituals and festive events; knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe; traditional craftsmanship2.

Traditional crafts have long been part of the tourist offer. They are the element of intangible heritage, which initially formed the basis of the so called creative tourism. Creative tourism is one of the relatively new forms of tourism, which is considered very beneficial to both the host community and tourist, as it is believed to offer a transforming experience to the latter, at the same time preserving the self-respect and the authentic character of local
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Tourism Department at SWU Neofit Rilski Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003), http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?lg=en&pg=00022, retrieved on 7.09.2013 2 Ibid.
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population. Greg Richards and Crispin Raymond, who coined the term, defined it as: Tourism which offers visitors the opportunity to develop their creative potential through active participation in courses and learning experiences that are characteristic of the holiday destination where they are undertaken.3 In its earliest form, creative tourism was associated with crafts workshops. Later it developed to include design, cookery, gastronomy and winemaking, health and healing, language, spirituality, nature and landscape, sports and pastimes. Referring to Pine and Gilmores idea of Experience Economy, traditional crafts may be used in various ways in the tourism industry and have the potential to create different types of experiences. First of all, if we look at the famous evolution of economy from extracting commodities through making goods, delivering services, and staging experiences to guiding transformations and the customization of this model to the creative tourism phenomena 4 (fig. 1), we can find at least three possible stages (at times co-existent states) of using crafts for tourism purposes.

commodities

goods

services mass tourism

experience cultural tourism

transformation creative tourism

Figure 1. The evolution of tourism through the prism of the experience economy Source: Richards, G. (2010) Creative tourism: Development, trends and opportunities, Barcelona First of all, products of craftsmanship are sometimes used as souvenirs. In its most common form, this corresponds to the making goods stage, due to the fact that most souvenirs are standardized, because they need to possess certain characteristics small size, simplified design, representativeness of a place or phenomenon etc. Of course, there are ways to turn the purchase of a souvenir into an experience or transformation, but such practices are still not widespread. There are also some authors who place a clear demarcation between crafts and souvenirs, arguing that an item was generally considered to be a craft rather than a souvenir if it was authentic, where authentic was defined in terms of the items uniqueness, workmanship, historical/cultural integrity, and tradition. Surely, there is a great danger of depriving craft of its authenticity by commoditizing it to serve the souvenir industry, which could be avoided by carefully choosing what products are suitable for souvenirs and educating tourists to understand and appreciate them. Another way of using the tourism potential of traditional crafts is museums, ethnographic museums in particular. In this case, crafts products are not goods; they are turned into service by offering and selling information and knowledge to tourists. Modern museums can also offer experiences by customized and engaging ways of presenting their exhibitions to visitors. Some museum go even further by offering visitors the chance to become part in the in the making of a product familiarize them with the process of manufacturing.
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Richards, G. and Raymond, C. (2000) Creative Tourism. ATLAS News, 23, 16 20. Richards, G. (2010) Creative tourism: Development, trends and opportunities, Barcelona

The most creative and visitor-engaging form of presenting traditional crafts in tourism are operating artisan workshops. They bring together all three dimensions the selling of goods, the informative dimension of museums and the hands-on experience and all these resulting in an authentic product, consumed in special ambience. In addition, it is very favourable to the preservation of the tradition and skills necessary for ensuring the existence of crafts. Events can also be used for presenting crafts to visitors. The most popular ones are crafts fairs and festivals. They can be staged in a way so as to involve both spectators and participants by including not only presentation of products, but also demonstration and workshops. Besides, the variety offered is difficult to achieve through any other form. Events are also a strong tool for destination image-making. Traditional crafts in Bulgaria There are proofs for crafts on the Balkan Peninsula dating back to millennia (in September 2013, a pottery workshop was excavated near Varna, Bulgaria, dating back to as early as 6500 years ago). The Bulgarian crafts, however, in the form we know them today, saw their upheaval in the period of the National Revival (18-19 century), which was the time when trade increased. Up to then, during the Ottoman rule, crafts were limited within the family; all the necessary things for the household were made by the family members and sometimes used for generations on end5. There was a strict distinction between womens and mens activities, and there were also rigid rules in terms of the technology and the employed materials. At this stage of their development, it is more precise to refer to them as household activities. Then gradually, with the increased trade certain people specialized in a given sphere thus the first masters appeared. Soon, craftsmanship received its legal form of organization the artisan guilds. Although evidences show the guilds existed since 17th and 18th centuries, they were officially recognized by the Ottoman Empire in 1773 by decree of Sultan Mustafa III, which ensured internal autonomy and state patronage for the guilds and regulated their structure. The objectives of the guilds were mainly economic nature, to protect the interests of the craftsmen. The first crafts centre appeared in the 18th century, mainly in mountainous areas Bansko, Samokov, Tryavna, Koprivshtitsa, Plovdiv and many others. The most widespread crafts at that time were goldsmithery, woodcarving, copper, masonry, pottery, traditional construction, leatherworking, saddlery, weaving, and knitting. The upheaval lasted until the first decade of the 20th century, when industrialization had its impact and manufacturing started to steadily decline. In the last few decades, some efforts have been put to revive traditional crafts in Bulgaria. There are several schools which provide training mainly in woodcarving and pottery. Attempts have also been made to preserve the institution which was of greatest importance for the operation of craftsmanship the guild. In 1967, the National Association "Fellowship of Masters of Folk & Art Crafts" (called zadruga in Bulgarian) was established. Currently, it is the oldest acting crafts union in Republic of Bulgaria. The other similar association at a national level is the The National Chamber of Skilled Crafts (NCSC), established in 2002 under the Crafts Act. It is authorized to issue master's certificates (through the Regional Chambers of Skilled Crafts), which are legitimate

, M., M. , . (N.D.) , , retrieved from http://www.treasuresbulgaria.com/main.php?act=html&file=analiz.html on 04.09.2013

documents acknowledged with no exception by all EU countries and worldwide. At present, there are 26 regional Chambers of Crafts and 9 National Trade Associations of Crafts6. Crafts and Tourism in Bulgaria There are two basic ways in which crafts and tourism can co-exist events (fairs and festivals) and on-site facilities (workshops, shops). This paragraph is focused these two major dimensions of the link between crafts and tourism, trying to shed light on the current situation in Bulgaria and outline major trends and problems. Festivals and Fairs Currently, there are seven annual craft festivals/fairs in Bulgaria, two of which are international7. Of course, crafts are often included in folklore festivals and events dedicated to local cuisine, but since in these cases they are supplementary to the programme and are usually limited to exhibiting the produce of local craftsmen only, they will be excluded from the present study. The description which follows refers to events with a specific focus on crafts and its aim is to show their scope and the type of activities/products on offer. The organizers of the International Fair of Crafts and Arts Bulgarika claim it is the biggest event of this kind in Bulgaria. It takes place in August in Varna and lasts for almost three weeks. Apart from the exhibitions of handicrafts, which are also sold, it offers demonstrations. There are, however, no workshops or ateliers. The other international fair is the one in the Ethnographic complex of Etar (the first ethnographic complex in Bulgaria). The event includes a wide array of different crafts, traditional cuisine (degustation also offered) and is attended by a great number of international participants. Demonstrations are part of the programme. One of the newest events focused on traditional crafts if the festival in Malko Tarnovo, whose first edition was in the end of July 2013. Apart from stalls where the artisans work is exhibited and offered for sale, its programme also includes demonstrations and workshops. There are special workshops for children. 2013 saw the appearance of a new arts and crafts festival the one in Kiten. It is held in the last week of July and lasts for a week. The range of presented traditional and modern crafts includes production of crystal glass jewelry, accessories and jewelry made of leather and semi-precious stones, jewelry from natural materials, handmade fabrics, old weapons, metalwork, yarn dolls, designer jewelry, painted silk, art knitting, pottery, plasti (a special kind of textile), national dolls, stained glass. Visitors are given the possibility to learn and engage themselves in the process of production. The festival was initiated by Milen Minkov jewelry artisan, and supported by the Regional Craft Guild in Plovdiv. The Autumn Fair of Crafts takes place in Plovdiv in the end of September. The city has a long-lasting tradition in craftsmanship and one of the most active craft guilds in Bulgaria. Apart from the fair is theres another event, which has been so far unique to Bulgaria the Masters Day, celebrated on 12 December each year, which is the day of St.
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Crafts in Bulgaria, retrieved from http://www.regiocrafts.eu/index.php/crafts-industry/craft-in-bulgaria on 17.09.2013 7 Source: authors online search

Spiridon, the patron day of artisans and craftsmen. On that day the ritual of introducing an apprentice into the master guild is re-enacted. The two events are organized by the Regional Craft Guild in Plovdiv. The ethnographic museum in Plovdiv organizes a Week of the crafts in the last week of June, where visitors can see demonstrations of iconography, engraving and fine carving on knives and rifle butts, copper, making musical instruments, woodwork, pottery and basketry. The Fair of Yoghurt and Festival of Folk Traditions and Artisan Crafts is held annually in Razgrad. Although the focus is on traditional cuisine an exhibition of traditional crafts is also included. On the 29 June, this is the Day of St. Peter (Petrovden in Bulgarian), there are a lot of small-scale fairs and feasts, dedicated to traditional crafts (e.g. in Sandanski, Smolyan, Vratsa etc.). It is evident that (with few exceptions) crafts festivals in Bulgaria still need to catch up with the world trends, which are directed towards more engaging experiences for the visitor. A good practice in this respect is the newcomer the festival in Malko Tarnovo. Not only are workshops where visitors can learn how to make their own piece of handicraft a significant part of its offering, but it also caters for children. Another drawback is the number of international events only two. It is widely accepted that festivals have a huge contribution to increasing the popularity of a destination and achieving a favourable image. As far as the place where these events take place is concerned, we can see that larger cities predominate. Smaller towns and villages should take advantage of the opportunities these events offer for raising awareness, cultural exchange and generation of revenues. Moreover, crafts festivals and fairs would be more attractive if held in an authentic environment the craft centres of the Revival Period were mainly mountainous settlements. Ethnographic complexes, crafts streets, workshops Apart from presenting centuries-long skills of artisan at festivals and fairs, every destination can enrich its tourist offer by opening craft workshops. In Bulgaria, instances of including crafts in the tourist offer exists in four main forms created ethnographic complexes (open-air museums), preserved crafts streets (charshia), producers of traditional products, and workshops within hotel complexes. The first ethnographic museum in Bulgaria Etara, was established in 1964 and features 15 workshops in operations, two static ones (tannery and walnut-oil workshop) and an impressive collection of operating water-powered machinery. In addition there are two museums the House of Peter Saka and the Church with a school, and a hotel which provides the opportunity for overnight accommodation. Seven hobby courses are offered, lasting from 3 to 10 days. The cultural calendar is rich ranging from visiting exhibitions to re-enactment of rituals, bazaars, contests and scientific conferences8.
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http://www.etar.org/kalendar/kalendaren.htm

The other ethnographic complex of this scope is the Ethnographic Areal Complex Zlatograd. It is the first and still the only private one and was opened with the cooperation of the Municipality of Zlatograd on May 24, 2001. The nine operating handicraft workshops and the waterworks coupled with the unique ambience created by the vernacular architecture (most buildings in the complex are monuments of culture and are inhabited throughout the year make it a tourist destination of growing attractiveness. Its success is also owed to the innovative and engaging way of presenting the crafts visitors are given the opportunity not only to buy souvenirs but to take short lessons and watch demonstrations. Accommodation is provided in several hotels and guesthouses of excellent quality. The third complex which is worth mentioning is Fanagoria, though its focus is more on history than crafts. The complex is a copy of Proto-Bulgarian war camp from 6-8 century and includes wood firewalls with towers, furnished yurts, acting crafts workshops, restored antique costumes, weapons, household items and furniture. There are a couple of hotel complexes who have included crafts in their offering the Barite complex, the Genger complex. They do not, however, offer demonstrations or lessons. A good practice of a producer who uses tourism as a supplementary source of revenues is Damascena, whose main field of activity is rose oil production. They created the ethnographic complex of Damascena, featuring an old distillery called "gyulapana" which was used for extracting rose oil in the Rose Valley more than 340 years ago. The complex visitors can watch a demonstration of the rose oil distillation throughout the season and feel the spirit of the old tradition. The distillery is very popular with tour operators and is included in most cultural tours for foreigners. The two relatively well-preserved craft streets in Bulgaria are the one in Tryavna and the Samovodska charshia in Veliko Tarnovo. They both feature some active workshops. The major problem in both places is the presence of too many industrially produced souvenirs, which are sold at lowest prices, lower quality and damage the authentic feeling, at the same time hindering the offering of handicraft products. To sum up, the existing ethnographic complexes/open air museums in Bulgaria can be considered good practices. There is still unutilized potential in this respect, which should be exploited by traditional handicraft centres, especially the ones with preserved vernacular architecture. Special attention should be paid to the craft streets to preserve their authenticity and prevent commoditization. Local authorities have a crucial role in solving this problem, but should be assisted by craft associations and scientific organizations. Conclusion Although Bulgaria has a long-lasting tradition in handicrafts, they are gradually diminishing and special efforts should be put in their preservation. Tourism offers great opportunities for reviving them mainly through events and on-site workshops. More attention should be paid to creating an engaging experience for the visitor by offering demonstrations, crash lessons and courses. One of the greatest problems is the total lack of

marketing policy for craft tourism in Bulgaria. There is almost no information on the opportunities the country offers, which could be easily surpassed by creating a database of all existing workshops, artisans and events. Traditional crafts are part of the intangible heritage of the world governmental and local policies should be aimed at preserving and stimulating them through the national, European and international programmes. REFERENCES: 1. Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003), http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?lg=en&pg=00022, retrieved on 7.09.2013 2. Crafts in Bulgaria, retrieved from http://www.regiocrafts.eu/index.php/craftsindustry/craft-in-bulgaria on 17.09.2013 3. Richards, G. (2010) Creative tourism: Development, trends and opportunities, Barcelona 4. Richards, G. and Raymond, C. (2000) Creative Tourism. ATLAS News, 23, 16 20. 5. , M., M. , . (n.d.) , , retrieved from http://www.treasuresbulgaria.com/main.php?act=html&file=analiz.html on 04.09.2013 6. http://www.etar.org/kalendar/kalendaren.htm