Feature: Slovenian traditional lace-making businesses struggling to survive pandemic

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, May 10, 2021
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by Kaya Kamenaric

LJUBLJANA, May 10 (Xinhua) -- Slovenians in some regions are happy to rejoin friends after over six months' COVID-19 restrictions, as restaurant and bar terraces all over the country are conditionally allowed to operate.

However, tourism-dependent businesses are still struggling, particularly small businesses such as those owned by Slovenian Idrija lace-makers.

Idrija is a small town in West Slovenia, recognized as an important center of lace-making knowledge that spread the craft of designing and making lace art into the world. With traditional know-how, locals are proud of their delicately interwoven threads of the hand-made Idrija lace.

The lace has earned itself a geographical indication, and the special skill has been inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as "bobbin lace-making in Slovenia."

"The situation last year has completely changed our established way of working: sales have completely dropped, there are no tourists. And it is necessary to think extensively about how to proceed," says Vanda Lapajne, who has been running her own lace business since 1993.

Lapajne's company has a wide selection of products, including traditional ones such as tablecloths and napkins. More modern lace products include bobbin jewelry. "Our curtains and bedsheets are custom-made," Lapajne said.

"At the moment, I have no idea about how we're going to make it," she said, explaining that the lace-makers they work with are worried about their already humble earnings dropping even more. "Due to the pandemic, various shops in Slovenia were permanently closed because they simply gave up."

Lapajne did not start making laces just for a living; she makes them because she loves the craft. "I can create and design my own products," she said. As her company is a family business, her daughter is also involved and has already mastered the techniques of making laces.

Last year, the traditional "Idrija lace festival" went online. However, it is not yet determined if it will happen in any form this year.

"We prepared for these festivals all year round. Our sales exploded and we were very successful." Lapajne remembers festivals held years ago and plans to continue the work of her ancestor Franc Lapajne, who founded the company in 1875.

Almost everyone in Idrija knows how to bob laces. Many of them learn the craft at home, while many attend the afternoon Idrija lace school.

The school Lapajne attended was founded in 1876, one year after her family business started, according to head of the school Metka Fortuna. "The school was established to ensure the quality of hand-bobbin lace, which a huge number of the locals were making," Fortuna said.

Having been practiced in Idrija since the end of the 17th century, bobbin lace-making is now not only a business in the town.

Over 450 children attend bobbin lace-making classes as an extracurricular activity. Adults and foreigners join too, Fortuna said, and their youngest student was only 6 years old, and their oldest 88.

Tourists who visit the exhibition can also try the basic twisting and crossing of the thread used in bobbin lace. "Usually our exhibition is visited by over 1,000 visitors a year," Fortuna added.

However, the pandemic has had a very big impact on their work with great financial consequences, she said, adding that collaborations at various professional events have been halted.

As Fortuna explains, the deficit from tourism is huge. "This year we only had two visitors at the school. There would usually be a few hundred of them," she said. "The key to surviving the pandemic is trying to adapt and stay innovative." Enditem

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