New craft centres promote the culture of the mid-Baltic region

Mid-Baltic Crafts has worked to preserve art and craft traditions in the Latvia-Lithuania border area, support entrepreneurship among craft workers and attract tourists. It has done this by establishing a network of 10 craft centres, providing training on craftsmanship, marketing of craft products and running of centres, creating craft-related tourist routes and carrying out promotional actions.

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One of the ten crafts centres created by local craftsmen through the Mid-Baltic Crafts project. © Aivars Ērglis One of the ten crafts centres created by local craftsmen through the Mid-Baltic Crafts project. © Aivars Ērglis

" The implementation of the project was complex and involved all stakeholders - municipalities, associations, craftsmen and local and foreign tourists. It covered a vast territory and the extensive and well-coordinated cooperation strengthened the crafts sector and led to collaboration which is still ongoing. "

Anna Builo-Hoļme, Project Manager, Zemgale Planning Region

The potential of Latvia's Zemgale region and Šiauliai and Panevėžys counties in Lithuania has gone largely untapped due to lack of infrastructure and visibility, and inefficient use of resources. The area has a rich craft tradition, but with the advent of mass production, the economic importance of craft has declined.

Partners from both sides of the Latvia-Lithuania border came together to carry out analysis, including data collection on local craftsmen. Based on this, the partners realised that, while there were many craftsmen eager to use their skills, possibilities for them to develop these skills so as to meet customers’ needs and market goods effectively were lacking. Furthermore, most craft products are sold at markets or in souvenir shops, and only during the summer, when there are more tourists.

Supporting entrepreneurship and attracting tourism

The partners concluded that developing the art and craft sector would attract tourists, reduce the impact of seasonality on craft workers and increase levels of self-employment, while helping to maintain the area's culture. They thus launched Mid-Baltic Crafts, which built on previous craft projects in which they had been involved. By developing a cross-border network, the project aimed to promote common artistic and cultural values, and create infrastructure to preserve craftsmanship and help the sector to develop.

A network of 10 craft centres, each with a different specialisation, was established to provide support for craftsmen and give them places to work, teach, learn, share experience and organise workshops and exhibitions. This entailed renovation of premises, purchase of equipment, taking care of legal and administrative points, assigning coordinators and preparing development plans. Visitors to the centres can watch craftsmen work, try to make something themselves and buy products.

New skills for craft workers and coordinators

Over 100 craftsmen took the chance offered by the project to gain entrepreneurship and marketing skills, as well as knowledge of latest artistic and technological developments. Success stories were published to encourage entrepreneurship. Around 20 craft centre coordinators attended training sessions to better enable them to coordinate the work and foster development of the centres, and to convey knowledge of online marketing, tax requirements and business models to craftsmen.

Visibility was increased through organisation of travelling exhibitions and festivals, participation in international tourism fairs, creation of a digital wood craft museum, and publication of catalogues and brochures. Joint events brought together Latvian and Lithuanian craftsmen, leading to further cross-border cooperation. Learning was fostered through wood and weaving workshops and a five-day study tour for local artisans, while five tourist routes were created, along with accompanying tourism packages.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Mid-Baltic Crafts / Cross-border network of craft as promoter of attractiveness of Latvia - Lithuania borderlands” is EUR 1 574 102, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 337 986 through the “Latvia – Lithuania” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date