The geographical position between three continents made the island of Cyprus the crossroad of eastern and western civilization. Through the passage of time it has created its own history and culture. Craftsmen through the ages created a wealth of traditions in folk art. The Cypriot artisan through his work expresses his inside world and feelings. His knowledge and inspiration as well as the experiences and ideas survived through the ages as they were passed on from one generation to the other.
In 1975 the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism undertook the responsibility for the preservation of Cyprus Folk Art, its development and encouragement into modern cottage industry and handicrafts. Specialized members of the staff made studies and started projects which were initially funded by the High Commission for Refugees with the main target of offering employment to refugees and other affected persons and in parallel to this, the long term development of cottage industry and handicrafts. Today the Cyprus Handicraft Service development programme covers a wide range of activities, actions and services which basically aim to achieve the following:
- Study and research on traditional folk art as well as modern cottage industry and handicrafts.
- Documentation of traditional crafts, their techniques and the creation of archives.
- The qualitative and aesthetic improvement of articles produced by the private craftsmen.
- The design and creation of new products based on tradition and adjusted to modern requirements and needs.
- Guidance and technical assistance to craftsmen.
- Training and retraining of interested individuals or groups who wish to improve the standard of their work or learn a particular craft.
- Organization of training courses on traditional crafts.
- Organization of programmes for the support and encouragement of craftsmen, especially in rural areas.
- Organization and control of production for the purpose of increasing product competitiveness.
- Organization of exhibitions to promote handicrafts in the local market and abroad.
- Participation in cultural and tourist activities.
- Cooperation with cultural organizations and museums for the promotion of handicrafts.
- Study, research and creation of specialized thematic collections of handicrafts in traditional craft centers in rural areas.
For the implementation of the above goals the Cyprus Handicraft Service has since 1979 created the Handicraft Centre in Nicosia with a number of experimental workshops such as Embroidery, Weaving, Woodcarving, Pottery, Metalwork, Basketry/General Handicrafts, Leatherwork and Garments. All the experimental workshops are with specialized craftsmen under the guidance and supervision of the responsible instructors in each section. Here the visitors have the opportunity to watch live presentations of how the Cyprus handicrafts are made. This has established the Cyprus Handicraft Centre in Nicosia as a major tourist attraction. Apart from this the Service has the district Centers and shops in Larnaka, Limassol and Pafos and organized workshops in weaving in refugee settlements at Latsia and Tsiakkilero. These organized workshops offer the opportunity to those interested to come and work on the basis of piecework and produce for the Cyprus Handicraft Service.
There are also administration offices, a permanent exhibition hall and a shop open to the public. Genuine handicraft articles, representing the traditional crafts of the island are exhibited and are on sale at the shop. Their superior quality and aesthetic value attract many local and tourists visiting the Centre. The Cyprus Handicraft Service offers organized training courses in various crafts. These courses take place in the experimental workshops in the Cyprus Handicraft Service in Nicosia and they are open to everybody interested in learning a craft. Training programmes are also organized in rural areas for groups of people who wish to learn a particular craft or to produce on the basis of piecework for the Service. Cooperation with the private sector is also a very important extension of the activities of the Service. This cooperation is divided mainly towards the improvement of standards, techniques and the design of their production and the use of raw materials and equipment.
The marketing of Cyprus handicrafts is also an important activity of the Service. It helps to:
- Promote and make known the local handicrafts both to Cypriots and tourists.
- Improve the quality and aesthetic value of the handicrafts sector as a whole.
- Increase the sales in the Cyprus and foreign market.
The sales of genuine and high quality handicrafts through the retail shops of the Service in all towns and through selected private shops, the gift trade with organizations and enterprises, the participation in trade and cultural exhibitions in Cyprus and abroad, the small scale exports, the publicity and promotion campaign, assist the craftsmen to promote and sale their products.
Source: Press And Information Office, Republic Of Cyprus, 2005