Crafted by hand

The artisans: who are they, what inspires them, what are their skills and how do they fathom their mission today? This photo diary leaves a visual imprint of a journey into the depths of the Bulgarian craftspeople’s destiny by creating portraits of skilled masters, illustrating their creative processes and showcasing the sophistication of their articles.

Under the circumstances of an increasingly digitized daily round, the issue of the preservation and future of manual labor as a sustainable livelihood and as part of the cultural heritage of a given nation, has gained in relevance. In this sense, Crafted by Hand shines the spotlight on master craftspeople who have chosen to devote their lives to professions practiced by only few in this country, and in some cases even worldwide. Using the format of a photo diary with supplemented texts for each master and his craft, Crafted by Hand presents six documentary photo series featuring some of the rarest crafts in Bulgaria. The photographs capture the face behind the craft, the environment at work, the specific tools, the creative process and some of their finished works. The goal and mission of Crafted by Hand is not only to give greater publicity to these rare occupations, but also to recall the need for the preservation and development of the crafts typical of Bulgaria. With their craftsmanship and artistic worth, the products of manual labor are part and parcel of the Bulgarian national heritage and identity and may serve as an excellent promotional tool to present the country to the rest of the world.

Behind the Camera
The mastermind and ideologist of Crafted by Hand is Rosina Pencheva – a visual artist. Her mission is to put focus on the Bulgarian cultural heritage, its value and preservation, by using the means of expression that photography offers. Her professional experience with photographing handicrafts and the creative processes involved, started back in 2013. For more than four years, she worked as a museum photographer at Etar Regional Ethnographic Open-Air Museum (Gabrovo, Central Bulgaria) where from she inherited her mission as an ambassador of Homo Faber, the international network of artisans in handicrafts at the Michelangelo Foundation.
Gifts and Skills
Crafted by Hand features six handicrafts selected on the basis of historical reference and an analysis of the current situation. Each of the crafts is currently practiced at a high professional level by not more than ten people in this country. During the selection of the six masters, Rosina Pencheva has been guided by the eleven criteria of artisanal excellence formulated by Alberto Cavalli, the CEO of Michelangelo Foundation, namely, authenticity, competence, craftsmanship, creativity, innovation, interpretation, originality, talent, territory, tradition and training (Cavalli 2018). 
Following a long and tough selection, the six artisans whom Crafted by Hand presents include:
Hristo Totsev – 39 y.o., from the city of Gabrovo, master of dry stone walling;
Petar Paunov– 73 y.o., from the city of Gabrovo, master coppersmith;
Georgi Todorov-Getz – 51 y.o., from the town of Sopot, master tobacco-pipe maker;
Hristo Marinov – 67 y.o., from the city of Gabrovo, master of goat-hair weaver;
Stopan – 32 y.o., from the city of Sofia, master bookbinder;
Deyan Denchev – 49 y.o,. from the town of Razgrad, master luthier, maker of gadulka (rebec) stringed instruments.