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!

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15 comments

Madeleine Kennedy

Loved that first shop in Glen Iris, I would get off the train and visit the shop after work in the 70’s, then catch the bus which was stopped out the front, home to Mt Waverly, I loved your hand made candles, and the clothing was great. Lovely memories, thanks ISHKA.

lisa mourant

ISHKA in Geelong is my favourite store. Friendly, helpful staff, fabulous stock and welcoming atmosphere. Lovely just to have a browse but something usually catches your eye, the cards are wonderful. Every time I get a text it’s like hearing from a friend!!!!

Julie Reay

It would be wonderful to have an Ishka in England…..I visit your shops when I come to see my sister in Melbourne and always buy loads……she gets my birthday presents from you 👍😊✌✌

June Chapman

Visited the robina store. Found the salesman very accommodating and helpful, It’s nice to see someone so friendly in a shop. Just love looking around, even if I don’t buy. But always try to buy even if something small.

Dianne McDonald

From the moment I started buying Ishka products , I was hooked. Now each time I go into ishla I like to buy something and the staff are a delight to be around
Always obliging.

patricia righetti

my partner is not a great shopper but always likes to vist Ishka shop for present buying.
he also loves wearing those lovely light cotton happy pants !

Anne

I’m so pleased you have opened a shop at Stocklands Greenhills. The products sold make a home a cosy place to calm down on the weekend.

Luana

I first went to Ishka in 1976. I remember Michael. I still have my Ugg books I bought that year. Ishka introduced me to Patchouli oil and Aphrodisia oil, which I still use to this day. Ishka became our favourite place to shop. So many great memories.

Mary Young

I love the shop in Belconnen and Woden. I have bought some really nice things over the years for my place and also for gifts. I never walk past the shop without going in. The staff are very helpful and friendly.

JOhn Martin

DARMA JOHN
I remember hanging around Ishka In Glen Iris like a bad smell in the mid to late 70’s. Taking in the exotic craft and wonderful insence. Great place to hang after school. I loved the split level aspect of it. I think it was sort of split level?Strange but I always thought it was started by Michael and one of his best mates. I know they fell out in the late eighties and MIchael took over.

Judy

I have very fond memories of the first Ishka store as it coincided with my store opening called the Cumquat Gallery in High Street Armadale. I used to get leather handbags and candles from Michael to sell. Having no business acumen at the time my business didn’t last very long but it was great fun roaming around and meeting various artists jewellers and potters and putting their stuff on display. Oh the good old days. So that’s how I met Michael and I’ve continued to buy stuff over the years can’t resist it!

Ken

I fondly remember the small original store in Wills St. Glen Iris because I lived just down the road. As a teenager, I’m sure I annoyed Michael often, wandering around the store taking in the amazing colours and the ever present smell of leather as he worked. It was wonderful to watch this store and concept grow into what it is today.

Sue Fraser

fantastic concept great realisation of a dream…

Ivana Csar  O.A.M.

Memories of the 1970’s when working in Carlton, heavingly pregnant, Christmas coming up…asking for a chair and proceeding to buy all of 22 presents from Carlton Ishka Store. Women…men…children…all catered for.
And then…Cafe Paradiso for a cool drink and a salad…the Nova occupies that space now.

Last week shopped at the Fitzroy Store and also found items of interest for my son’s little girls…yes the son I was aspecting then…

Rob

Awesome story, lovely people, great store – I have some close friends I buy gifts for and they love when I shop at ISHKA.

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