Every year at Golden Festival, we curate a marketplace of artisans and merchants to delight the senses, complementing the musical diversity on our stages. 

We call it Charshiya, after the word (Çarşı) for the old market district of Ottoman-era towns.

Architect Dušan Gabrijan once described Balkan towns as living beings, with the čaršijeas their heart. More than just a commercial center, čaršija implies a coming-together of peoples as well as the transfer of goods. This is where ideas were exchanged, products flowed in and out, and drinks were poured.

People from different communities developed a common language of aesthetics, craft and trade. Some of this year’s Charshiya artisans practice generations-old techniques. Others are innovators, tapping into their roots and their journeys as inspiration for contemporary design. Several merchants support artisan families abroad and bring their products to a new audience. This year, revisit some of our long-time exhibitors, and welcome new ones!

Alisher Khaydarov (Vintage Jewelry NYC): Alisher Khaydarov and family preserv ethe traditions of Uzbek jewelry, utilizing designs and techniques going back to the 19th century and before. Thin sheets of silver are hand-stamped into molds, forming components that are soldered together to form hollow pendants and dangles. Fine wire is twisted into chain links, embellished with seed pearls or coral beads, forming a sparkling fringe while thicker wire is twisted into scrolling filigree. Often the pieces are gilded prior to assembly, with carnelians and turquoise set in bezels. The resulting jewelry is eye-catching and filled with graceful movement, but is surprisingly lightweight.

Alisher Khaydarov is recognized by UNESCO for his accomplishments in preserving this heritage. His work is represented in the US in by Mirshod Khaydarov who resides in the Central Asian neighborhood of Forest Hills, Queens.

Arganier Noir –Since prehistory, people in Mediterranean regions of Africa and Southern Europe have compounded plants and minerals for hygiene, healing, body decoration, and spiritual purposes. Women, especially, developed recipes to protect and hydrate hair and skin in regions where life was spent largely out of doors, in hot and dry climates.            

Red is considered a sign of health, well-being and beauty, nearly world-wide. The Moroccans have traditional recipes for what they call Aker Fassi, derived from edible plant pigments, and used as a lip color and blush. Arganier Noir’s is artisanally created from poppy petals and pomegranate in intense reds and brick and is served up in beautiful clay cosmetic pots. The seeds of the argan fruit, an olive-like plant endemic to parts of Morocco and Algeria, produces an oil that is nourishing and moisturizing and easily absorbed into the skin.

Lamya Z. partners primarily with small cooperative producers in the Atlas Mountains to bring these traditional and organic colors, treatments and fragrances from the Atlas Mountains of Morocco to Golden Fest this weekend.    

DarArt Shop US: Coppersmiths were among the most visible–and audible–businesses in the old bazaars, as copper ware was essential to food, tea and coffee preparation and serving. Flat sheets of metal were hammered into 3-dimensional forms. Old copper vessels were repaired, re-tinned and used for generations.

DarArt’s copper products are handmade, planished and engraved by traditional masters in Diyarbakır, meaning “Land of Copper”, one of the most ancient places in Southeastern Anatolia where the metal was mined and crafted. The Demir family’s Kurdish textile accessories are produced by a cousin, an expert in woven goods for over 35 years.

Falcon Feather Jewelry: (Saturday only) Mixed-media jewelry, designed and made in Brooklyn by Bilyana Tosic Petino. As a refugee from the civil wars of her native Yugoslavia, Bilyana arrived in Greece where she learned jewelry production and began her career.

Since moving to Brooklyn, her work has taken on new forms. Cast in bronze and brass and gilded, metal takes on an organic and expressionistic aspect, never disguising the hand of the artist. Some designs hint at her cultural roots–hammered metal discs recall dukat coin pendants worn throughout Eastern Europe; pearl-drop earrings resemble those of ancientByzantine beauties.

Gaspri Atelier: Based in Montclair, NJ, Kastriot Gaspri continues his family’s heritage of silver filigree, in the 3-dimensional style characteristic of the western Balkans. True filigree is a challenging technique: fine silver wires must be drawn, precisely cut, and set into a heavier wire framework or backplate. Soldering is done with pinpoint accuracy, as not to overheat and melt delicate wires, traditionally using a blowpipe.

In this style of filigree, completed sections are then bent into organic forms or domes, layered onto the base, and, again precisely soldered, giving the piece structure and depth. Pairs of domes become beads or precious buttons. Frequently bezels are added, and set with an accent stone.

M Voli E: “M Loves E” is Astoria-based designer Marijana Sprajc’s label that references her Croatian heritage. Her company, House of Mars, taps into a variety of European historical needlework techniques to construct playful, wearable–and sometimes edgy–art.

Among her most interesting techniques is lucet cording, a medieval construction technique using a two-pronged tool. This produces a square braid, rows of which can be stitched together to construct flat bands; this method was used to construct men’s belts in parts of Croatia and sections of garments elsewhere in the Balkans. Marijana braids, twists and stitches these lucet cords to create bold jewelry.

Knitting is another favorite technique or Marijana’s. Beaded knit cuffs serve both as jewelry and as practical wrist warmers, and were made from the Balkans to Scandinavia. Look for the color red, and heart motifs, pulsing life, and reminiscent of the red-glazed heart-shaped ornamental cookies known as Ličitar in Croatia and Slovenia.

MiQissa: Ikat is a textile dyeing technique that is practiced in many parts of the world, from Japan and Indonesia to Central Asia to Central America. Silk ikats were imported during the Ottoman era into the Balkans.

Bundles of yarns are wrapped with a binding that resists dye, in rhythmic or figural patterns, prior to weaving. Binding and dyeing can be done multiple times before weaving to add complex color variation. The dyed yarns can then be used for warp, weft, or both, producing horizontal, vertical, or crossing patterns. The subtle shifts of yarns created in the weaving process create soft edges to the design, giving ikat patterns their characteristic hazy appearance and endless variation. Satin ikat is flat woven; for velvets, the weft is woven with tiny loops which are then cut.

Maki Nakano works with artisans in Turkey to who convert these vibrant Uzbek textiles into footwear and bags. The ikat method and cut of the fabric ensures that no two items are alike. And don’t these colorful velvet high tops make you want to dance?

Meri Movsisyan/MovMeri Art: Along the Silk Road, Armenian traders specialized in fine textiles and dyestuffs for centuries. Learning the art of silk production in China by the 6th century, they introduced the silk worm to the Caucasus and began weaving their own textiles.

Batik, the use of wax resist to separate or overlay dye colors on textile, has ancient roots in both the Far East and Pharaonic Egypt. The technique may have crossed from east to west, west to east–or both ways–over millennia.

Revived in 20th century Armenia, silk painting and batik are taught as fine arts media in Yerevan. There, the traditions of calligraphy and polychrome manuscript illumination were revived in a new secular context–on textiles–and combined with folk motifs such as the pomegranate and tree-of-life. Meri Movsisyan brought her skills to Brooklyn, where she continues to create colorful silk scarves and paintings on canvas. Her work ranges from figurative to abstract, inspired by a reverence for nature, folklore, and 20thc. European painting.

MyKomboloi: The first humans to collect smooth river pebbles and worn sea shells likely recognized their calming effect and beauty. A hole, natural or intentionally drilled, allowed them to be strung and worn, and so beads were invented, the earliest artifacts found representing abstract thought. Since then, beads have served as ornaments, jewelry, accounting devices, amulets, and devotional objects.

Komboloi, known as “worry beads” in English, are secular personal accessories used in Greece and other former Ottoman lands. Adapted from prayer beads, tesbih, used by Muslim neighbors, similar beads were strung in non-sacred numbers on longer strings, and Greeks developed various ways of rhythmically manipulating them.

Komboloi are meditative and stress-reducing, they improve manual dexterity, and can even be musical. Old-time rembetika (Greek urban folk) musicians used them for percussion (sometimes alongside a shot glass).This formerly male preoccupation has now crossed the gender line. Christine Curtis hand-selects and hand-strings komboloi from natural stones and metal for all. Come and find a set that sings to you.

RouDesigns: The fine art art and technology of porcelain originated in China over 2000 years ago, spreading westward into other parts of Asia and Europe. Fine-milled white kaolin clay is combined with other minerals and fired at high temperatures. This hard, vitreous ceramic retains its structure in spite of textile-like thinness, allowing colored glazes to glow with transmitted light; it is capable of being cast mechanically as well as hand-formed and finely carved. The word “porcelain” itself refers to the cowrie shell, which it resembles in hardness, color and translucency.

Rousina Valkova explores porcelain’s dual nature, creating both functional vessels and fine art works. These express the purity of form created through casting, while exploring the ability of the material to transition seamlessly between geometry and delicate, organic form. She occasionally works in other media (plastic clay, stoneware), and also creates molds and prototypes for production.

Rousina’s studio is based nearby in Long Island City, exhibiting internationally as well as locally (another duality!). Her work is represented in the significant ceramics collection of the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, and in the Sofia Museum in her native Bulgaria.

Silk Road Slipper: Removing outdoor shoes at the entrance to a home is a point of etiquette and hygiene from throughout East and CentralAsia and into the Balkans. In these regions, esteemed guests are often gifted colorful pattern-knit socks or house slippers to wear indoors. Called cheshka in the Turkmen language, designs are still transmitted mother-to-daughter, and continue to evolve.

Tylla worked her way through school knitting these, but since arriving in the US, Tylla’s sister-in-law Lale, Lale’s mother, and other relatives now create most of her inventory in Mary, Turkmenistan. Lale is also known in her community for her talent as a seamstress of traditional garments.

Originally wool, cheshka are now knit in a durable synthetic yarn, but retain ancient patterns and brilliant color schemes. The slippers are great also for travel, and make perfect gifts for your festival host and your friends at home.

Studio Narona: Studio Narona was founded by Katarina Crnogorac, a New York City born Croatian-American, whose work is heavily influenced by the diverse elements of Croatian folk culture. Her involvement in traditional folk dancing alongside her parents since childhood has instilled a passion for her heritage and only intensified by the years spent studying at the government run Croatian School of Folklore throughout various cities in Croatia.  Studio Narona is where both Katarina’s modern interpretations of folk motifs and traditional techniques come to life. Glass beaded jewelry from Samobor , the kraluš, inspires the woven look of the “modio” bracelets. The “licitar”, a colorfully decorated gingerbread tradition included in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural heritage, is an inspiration for Studio Narona’s heart items.  

Recognized in 2019 by the National Federation of Croatian Americans and in 2021 by the Croatian World Congress USA for promoting and preserving traditional Croatian Cultural heritage and folklore dancing, Katarina continues to take inspiration from her cultural roots to explore new ideas and techniques.  

Tingis Designs: Henna body art, jewelry, and Moroccan-inspired clothing, by Tangier-born designer, Noufissa Bernikhou. Decorative henna on hands and feet is well-known as a custom for joyous events in North Africa and South Asia, but henna hair color has been enjoyed in Southern Europe since the time of the ancient Greeks, and is used to this day in the Balkans.

In some communities a simple dab of henna paste, compounded from the leaves of the shrub, Lawsonia inermis, is applied on the palm of the hand or as a stain on the fingertips. However, illustrations and photos from the mid-20th c. show complex geometric henna patterns, resembling those of Morocco, worn by Gorani Muslim women in Kosova. Similar motifs also appear as traditional women’s ink tattoos in rural Croatia, signs of protection and marks of identity.

Inspired by her own roots, Noufissa not only practices henna as body decoration, but also as a medium for her paintings. She is a member of the collaborative Secret Errand in Brooklyn, producing and importing sustainable fashion and home goods with a Moroccan and West African vibe.

The Tribal Knot: (Saturday only) The ancient Illyrians–who inhabited present-day Albania, Montenegro and Croatia–produced high-quality wool yarns from mountain-pastured flocks. Archeological evidence shows they wove textiles on frame looms as early as 400 BCE. Subsequent technological developments, and migrations of peoples through the region, added to their repertoire of techniques, patterns, and colors over the centuries. 

Flat-woven rugs served not only as floor coverings, but as covers for divans, beds and cushions. Women’s dress in many Balkan regions included woolen aprons which were, in effect, miniature carpets, displaying their wearer’s skill and artistry.    

The present-day peoples of these lands continue to weave. Artisans in Albania still use old-style looms in the kilim tapestry technique practiced for thousands of years. One full-sized rug takes about two months to complete, and is handmade from locally-sourced wool in vibrant colors. The Tribal Knot’s mission is to bring these authentic rugs, produced and obtained in Albania through sustainable and fair-trade practices, to people around the world.   

Visokowood: Mir Medujanin is a native of Visoko, Bosnia, and grew up around its čaršija in a large artisan and merchant family. Visoko, meaning “the tall place,” has long been a center of human habitation due to its altitude and defensibility, going back to neolithic times. Later it became a trade center and a capital of Bosnia in the medieval era.

Mir’s family members produce a variety of wooden accessories, each item displaying two or more techniques: hand-carving, wood turning, polychrome painting, and pyrography (drawing or imprinting designs on wood with a hot metal pen or stamp). These provide income and preserve a craft economy in a city which has increasingly industrialized.

Nowadays, wooden frulas (shepherds’ flutes), flasks for homemade rakija, carved smoking pipes, and intricately carved boxes are mostly made for visitors to Bosnia’s historic old towns. However, these small and functional works also reprise iconic Balkan objects, decorative motifs, and traditional skills, and keep them in local memory.

Zeep Naturals: When you can’t afford a trip to Turkish hammam or a Balkan mountain spa, Zeep Naturals provides restorative goods for quiet times at home.

Catskill-based Peter de Temmerman and Taner Oktar source soft towels, robes and bed textiles of organic cotton from artisans in Turkey. They craft their own botanical vegan soaps locally. Their seasonal fragrance palettes include rosemary, bergamot, basil, laurel, and more, recalling the rugged beauty and air of the mountains of the Balkans and Anatolia, and of upstate NewYork. The swirling colors of these handmade bars are reminiscent of ebru, the water-marbling technique decorating Ottoman-era Sufi manuscripts.