Welcome to the first instalment of ‘ISHKA in Time’, a collection of stories that reveal the colourful history of ISHKA…
ISHKA was founded in 1971 by Michael Sklovsky, a talented local craftsman passionate about eastern philosophy, the arts, free expression and the international trade of world crafts.
The first ISHKA store opened as a humble craft studio in an old building in Glen Iris, where all products sold were made on the premises. Michael suggested the name ISHKA – the name of an Afghan Hound belonging to friends who were instrumental in establishing ISHKA in the early years. The name had an exotic and memorable ring to it, and perfectly captured the spirit of the workshop.
At the flagship Glen Iris store, Michael made and sold a wonderfully diverse range of wares including leather goods, bags, chessboards, belts, bright batik fabrics, clothes and paintings, and assisted with the making of candles and beaded jewellery.
The store became well-known amongst the locals for its free-spirited living room atmosphere, often playing loud music and staying open until late at night. Customers knew they could ring the doorbell anytime and Michael would be there to greet them.
Once by mistake, Michael left the door open to the shop when leaving for the day. Upon his return, he discovered money on the table and a list in different handwritings of stock that had been taken; people had served themselves and recorded the transactions – and all the money balanced!
The local community was clearly fond of its colourful and worldly resident workshop.
1973 was the first year handcrafts from international village communities were imported into the store; Indian clothes and pottery quickly became most popular.
Michael’s own handcrafted goods and works of art became more eccentric and included leather sculptures and sculptural bags, as well as a koala bag for Dame Edna Everage and goanna briefcases with moving tails and heads.
ISHKA became the first store to sell Australian handcrafts, clothes and village crafts from all over the world including Peru, India, Afghanistan and Indonesia. ISHKA also became pioneer designers of interesting furniture crafted from recycled architecture and ox carts.
As ISHKA opened new stores across Australia, a passion for international trade and respect for village communities remained the key inspiration behind the diverse collection of handcrafted and recycled furniture, clothing, gifts and homewares.
Over the years ISHKA has continued to evolve with creativity, humour and cultural wonderment – principles instilled by Michael and pursued by the ever-growing ISHKA family.
Do you have an interesting story about our flagship ISHKA store? Any old photos you’d like to share? We’d love to know! Post a photo to instagram and tag @ishkahandcrafts or send a message on our facebook page!
Stay tuned for more fascinating stories from ISHKA in Time!