You have seen them sitting by a window in that cute coffee shop where you have your cappuccino in the afternoons. You have seen them work incessantly while they casually chat, or maybe sit silently at the end of a noisy group of travelling friends. You have certainly noticed they never stop. They don’t stop looking around, searching for ideas, for threads or stones or stuff. Thinking, making, knotting, twisting, drawing, painting. Travelling and making crafts. You have seen them sitting patiently in their tiny stalls.
You have surely met them on the road (or on the net). They move around in bicycles, vans, buses or by thumb, carrying an extra load of materials or stock, and building their improvised shops in markets, beaches, festivals, hostels or anywhere they go. Some of them live from their crafts on the road, others dream of selling their things online and some do not want to think of craftmaking as a job. But they share one thing for certain, and is joy for what is handmade, for what is born from their hands.
We write about six, but they are as many and as unique as their handmade creations. To anyone who meets them they are inspiration. And to the craft lovers, they are a perfect excuse to get a gift for oneself or someone you love. Because every piece made by a travelling artisan is a double gift: a present for the one that shall receive it and a gift for them. Each item sold translates into kilometers and every step turns into stories that are inspiration or invitation to make more crafts. If you are a maker yourself, you know what we are speaking about.
Josephine Ehlers (Denmark). Macramé. By van.
Josephine makes the road look beautiful. We sit in a Volkswagen van and drink green tea from ceramic cups. The van is a cosy home, with flowery curtains, pictures, cushions, decorations on the cupboards and even pots of plants. It’s been almost two years since she left her static home in Denmark with Andreas, and they now live in 9 mobile square meters, that have brought them puffing and cracking all the way to Thailand, through Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. It’s a well travelled WV van that sometimes starts and some times does not. They smile and tell us they wonder how long it will hold. Every tiny door and every drawer hides secrets and memories of a journey. Along the way, while Andreas drives and chats over quantum physics, she ties knots, hundreds of knots.
Josephine picks a stone and watches it carefully, turns it around, frowns twice and keeps on turning, as if looking for something. Its her unique way of choosing what the stone shall become. She knows that not two of them are alike and her hands speak softly, telling silently how she truly believes each one is a treasure that she had the luck to find. I watch her from the back seat of the van, working with endless patience each and every knot of intricate macrame designs. She has collected semi-precious stones during her travel and taught herself to braid strings along the way, making up her own designs.
When we meet her in Thailand she is just starting to sell her crafts on the way. Several months later, back in Denmark and still living in the van, her love for stones becomes a bigger project, and Josephine opens Zopft Design, her own “nomadic” (and online) store, born from the journey and her love for crafts.
Shop via Zopf online store
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Natasha Von Memerty (South Africa). Prints / Upcycling / Origami. By Bicycle.
One meets many travellers along the way. Hundreds of people going or coming their way. And there are some, a few here and there, with whom one hopes to cross ways once again. If one is lucky, the road will arrange the meeting in its own way. We first met Natasha in front of the Turkmen Embassy in Iran and many months later in Luang Namtha (Laos). We had come hitch-hiking, she had come by bike, with her partner Kieran, all the way from England to Bangkok.
When one has gone through the same desert roads and mountain passes cosily nested in the cabin of trucks, the journey of a cyclist seems titanic, impossible, beautifully tough. And one has no doubt it is all of that. But Natasha smiles, and says it’s alright, day by day, the bicycle takes you far. They did not intend to come all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific when they crossed the English channel two years back, they simply wanted to cycle and…one pedalling day after another they ended up, 20.000 km away from home. No matter how normal and possible they make it sound, we can never fail to feel impressed.
Natasha loves bicycles, nature, crafts, upcycling, origami and beautiful photographs. If you curious through their blog you will come across one of their travelling projects: a crew of little cyclists, that joined them all the way across Asia through the most beautiful landscapes. You can find them in Cappadocia, in the Kaluts desert, riding on the Great Wall and over fields and rivers and forests and roads. Along the way the little cyclists became postcards, calendars and prints, with which they supported part of the journey. And just like with pedalling, one thing brought Tash to another, and she started to work endlessly on handmade projects and upcycled crafts. You have to see what she would do with that old box of lego you have somewhere stored… When she had gathered more crafts than one can carry in the panniers of a bicycle, she opened an Etsy store, “for the love of crafting, bicycles and photography!”.
Shop via VonCrafty in Etsy
Victoria and Andrés (Argentina – Chile). Book binding and other crafts. By van
MedioMundo are Victoria and Andrés. They were going their own ways, one from Chile to Argentina, the other from Argentina to Brazil… and crossed paths in Buenos Aires where their wanderings became a common project and MedioMundo was born. They make hand-crafted diaries, notebooks, markers, magnets. Each of them as unique as every journey and all made by hand, with travel motifs and maps.
Victoria and Andrés say that MedioMundo is their life and travel project. They make crafts with a dream: to self-sustain their way by van across Latin America. So they work their “normal jobs” while making crafts, visiting fairs, selling online and preparing for the journey, knowing that the journey starts well before one takes the first step on the road (or in their case the first kilometre). Bit by bit their big travel draws closer and just a few weeks back they finally bought a Volkswagen Combi 87 that will be fixed and transformed into their moving home.
While getting ready, they travel here and there, and wherever they go, MedioMundo travels with them. Earlier I said that each craft-maker’s piece fulfils two wishes, but with MedioMundo it’s actually three, because everyone knows that objects like travelling too, and is every notebook’s wish to jump into your backpack and go far… Victoria and Andres know it well, and encourage anyone who gets hold of a MedioMundo to take them around and send them a photograph. In their blog there is a section for all the adventurous notebooks that roam the world.
Contact them on their site to get your Mediomundo
And follow their journeys and crafts on
Specials 4 Specials
Leo Persica (Iran). Brass and copper jewellery. Hitchhiking
Leo sits in a corner of the room. While we carefully examine a map of Iraq, he patiently turns brass and copper thread into a roving snail. Around him, a display of tiny crafts he has made along the way rolls on the carpet. Earrings, bracelets, rings… he has taught the craft to himself and slowly gathered a collection of pieces that he sells here and there, to people he meets, to travellers, to friends of friends. “It´s my hobby”, he shrugs his shoulders “I just love making things by hand”. Leo gets inspired by nature, loves rainbow stuff, and has that laid back aura with which you actually picture travelling artisans.
Leo is always travelling, one never knows if he is here or there or somewhere else. When we meet him it is the first time he has crossed a foreign border. The first time out of his home country, albeit not the last. We shall soon realize that we will get to meet him more than once and that we share so many common friends one wonders if Leo does not have some magic power. Maybe he does.
Ram Chavan (India). Prints and t-shirts. Anyhow
We meet Ram in a balcony of a crowded flat. It’s some sort of after-work gathering, we are baking pizza and drinking rum. And he takes care of the music while everyone else chats around. We are in Pune but feel like it could be Madrid or Sofia or London or Berlin. In this flat nothing speaks of India the way you imagine it. Well, maybe just the little puja altar in the corner of the living room, and maybe the scent of chai from the street stall below, and the bunch of Osho followers that walk around neighbourhood in wine couloured long robes, or maybe Ram’s hand-printed shirt from Rajastan, and the way we can keep up four conversations with six people at the same time. Yes, everything speaks of India, but of a urban one.
Ram travels around. Weekends, holidays, anytime. Around the country, to gigs, to festivals. He moves for music, art and fun. And Fabrikolor is the way to fund his wanderings. He fist started making tie-die t-shirts in his room at home, and in the first psychedelic festival he visited he sold them all. So he went on playing with colours, designing patterns, printing fabrics and posters after work, and has just opened an online store. Soon, he says, he will meet us on the road. That’s what his colour factory is for.
Get your t-shirt on fabrikolor online store.
And follow Ram’s colourful journeys in
Celia Lostrego (Lithuania). Ceramics. Hitchhiking
We have never met Celia and we do not know where she lives. We are not sure Celia is her real name anyway. But we know she travels the world and makes little ceramics, using all kinds of clays, glazes, enamels and experimenting with some natural and recycled materials. She visits the homes and workshops of potters along the way, learning from their ceramic traditions and sharing their stories in her blog.
She has been travelling around the world for 6 years and in every country Celia makes a new collection of ceramic jewellery that she then sells on the road, streets, markets, colleges…anywhere actually. She went all the way from Europe to Cambodia selling her crafts. And for other crafty souls that may want to do the same, she wrote some advices about selling art on the road.
She simply loves ceramics, how earth, water, fire and air can be moulded into anything by the ceramist’s hands. Celia is fascinated by the touch of clay, the magic of the kiln and how the ceramic colours mixed by herself turn her work into a box of surprises, where she can never know for certain what will come out of the oven till the process is over. She believes that all pottery artists share a secret… a sort of witchcraft.
You can find her creations in her page Lostrego
Also, send her some crafts love in
This post is a close relative of our project “Handmade in Asia”, that documents the work of artisans we come across during our travels in the continent. If you love crafts, feel free to peep through more artisans stories. Some of the travelling craftmakers featured in this post were actually part of the project, and we included their crafts in the surprise parcels that we used to send along the way. If you like what they do, buy something handmade, or “like” their stuff to support their handmade projects.
If you are a travelling artisan, drop us a line, we would love to know your story.