The history of our Organization does not start with its foundation in 1972, but actually with the ‘birth’ of the Schweizer Heimatwerk. During the big economic crises of the thirties politicians tied to find new ways for an extra income for farmers, for instance as making traditional handicraft to be sold in the wealthier town areas. It was known that Scandinavian countries had already institutions in this kind of field.

Mr  Dr. Ernst Laur, the later manager of the Schweizer Heimatwerk travelled  in 1930 to visit Haandarbejdets Fremme (DK), Husflieden (N), Hemslöjdn (S) to study the already existing Scandinavian organizations. He came home with a lot of good ideas. With a grant of the Swiss State already a shop was opened in Zürich the same year. Furthermore local courses were planned to improve the know how in making good crafts.

The friendship with the Scandinavian countries was steadily deepend and relations built up to Bavaria and Austria. The later ‘borrowed’ the name Heimatwerk from Switzerland. The leader in the team became Prof, Dr. Franz Lipp a competent ‘Folkskundler’ in crafts, national dresses, songs and traditional dancing. He became the first President of the European Folk Art and Craft Federation. But before came a difficult period. The growing national socialistic movements had similar targets as the upcoming crafts organizations e.g. back to the national roots.

But slowly, after the Second World War old friendships war taken up again, particularly between Prof. Dr. Franz Lipp and Albert Wettstein, the new director oft the Schweizer Heimatwerk. He also was very engaged in all forms of traditional culture and a very active PR man. But he also gained interested in new forms of crafts. He became the first  Secretary General.

In 1968 a conference of representatives of country organizations took place at the Heimatwerk School in Richterswil (CH), an education center for advances crafts. Major important aspects of a possible cooperation on the European level were sorely discussed. But there came a certain resistance against an European Federation from the side of board members in the different country organizations. (Concentration on national problems, costs of meetings…)

Newer the less on the 27th 1972 (35 years ago) the first statutes were signed by            Sweden:         Ingrid Oswald-Jakobsson,      Gunnel Hazelius-Berg

Austria: Prof. Dr. Franz Lipp, HelmuthHuemer

Switzerland Dr. Agnes Laur , Albert Wettstein

Elected were: Präsident: Mr. Prof. Dr. Franz Lipp

Secretary General Mr  Albert Wettstein

The first member countries were: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sardinia, Switzerland.

Exchange experiences, learn from each other

The first meeting after the foundation of the Federation was in Sassari, Sardinia (1975). Dr. Luigi Lao gave us the opportunity to get to know his local organisation under the name I.S.O.L.A. with its shops, the show room and the permanent exhibition. We also visited the production plants for hand woven carpets with the attached training centres.

The second  Conference was in the North, partly in Copenhagen partly in Göteborg in 1978. It was an opportunity to learn a lot about the promotion of handicraft in the Scandinavian countries, particularly at Haandarbejdets Fremme.

Schweizer Heimatwerk invited to its 50th anniversary to Zürich and Stein am Rhein in 1980. For this occasion A. Wettstein collected about 200 objects financed by the Swiss Department of Culture. This exhibition later was shown in the passed years in the following countries of the Federation: Austria (Krems), Norway (Oslo), Finland (Jyväskylä), Slovakia (Bratislava). It was an example for good a PR instrument for the country shown also in over sea: Huston, Montreal, Cairo, Alexandria, Rom.

In 1985 Arvi Pappinen, the next president, invited to a conference in  Helsinki. It was an interesting confrontation for us of traditional and modern Finnish design in the same shops. In all this was a new impulse for all participants..

In the subsequent period a general recession created serious problems in craft shops in nearly all member countries.. Sales dropped at remain costs. We decided to invite shortly to a working meeting in Malmö in 1987. We exchanged economic comparison data, which stimulated actions to increase the efficiency of hour sales sectors.

The meeting in Dürnstein near Krems/A in 1988 was an impressive event. Two relative near cultures met in a wonderful rich baroque convent near the Danube: Austria and Switzerland. Each country brought a full exhibition of traditional craft objects. Further more crafts people of both cultures were present and showed their practical skill in different fields. As well traditional music bands were with us for the festivities. – The Swiss delegation also brought a TV team. It made a 30 minute film about the great event.

Common European projects

In the years of 1984-86 the fist common project was implemented. It had two elements a travelling exhibition and a complementary book.

Eight countries sent representative objects for their traditional and modern crafts: Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. All these countries showed the exhibition within a period of 2 years. The project was in practice difficult to implement due to custom regulations.

Parallel to the exhibitor a book with 400 pages in 5 languages, size 21 x 21 cm with 160 excellent photos was issued by the editor Carlo Delfino, Sassari, Sardinia.

First time the exhibition was shown in Cagliari in 1984 in a very elegant modern exhibition centre.

The conception of this common project was good but actually a bit too big for our Federation. We therefore were looking for a smaller version and to print fewer books, because they did not sell too well. The conclusion was: we follow the same, conception, but concentrate on traditional jewellery. Following this line the object shown could be packed into one big bag. The book had only 175 pages.

The exhibition was shown first in Cagliari, Sardinia and in Pordenone, Veneto in 1989 with much local publicity. The later presentations found much interest in other countries of the Federation.

Intensive Cooperation, New members

The common activities brought good contacts within the Federation and made conferences livelier. The next one was in 1991 in  Oslo where The Oslo Husflid Forening invited to the 100 year anniversary. Also a fine fashion show about Norwegian knit wear was offered.

But important for the Federation was the opening to the East. Hungary with ARTEX became member and a representative from Tschechoslowakia was present.

In this period the new Logo of the Federation was presented and accepted.

In 1993 for a second time we had a conference in Firenze (the first one in 1989/) were we have been always very welcome as guests of Marco Tullio Vezani the manager and owner of ‘Florenz Gift Market’. We had there small meetings of coordination (subjects: export, UNESCO support, NEWS a new internal communication instrument, new members).

Exiting was the first trip to the ‘East’ with a conference. In the summer 1994 we followed the invitation of Hungary to get to know their national traditions. (Crafts, music and dancing). At the meeting a main topic was: How to gain new members? Estland. Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Tschechien Republic were discussed)

Again a Swiss TV team was with us. We received copies of the film.

The great event of the meeting was to take up the following new members:

Estonia, Slovakia, Spain

Already in Hungary Hans Köhl invited us to Salzburg  for 1996 for the celebration of the Jubilee of „50 years Salzburger Heimatwerk“. It was a great event with two impressive concerts and a reception with interesting speeches about the history of the Heimatwerk in this lovely old town. In our meeting apart from the general programme, we discussed the following topics:                                                                  – the Heimatwerk Organisations in the recession
– targets of the Federation
– mutual Projects

At the conference in Tallinn in 1997 the President of the Federation  Dr. Luigi Lao, was handling for  the last time in this function, he was retiring after 9 years.

In the following elections all delegates present voted for Irene Vestlund to become the new president and Dr. Georg Kellner vice president. With thanks for his long and excellent services Dr. Lao was elected Honorary President.

During the conference 5 excellent papers were presented and discussed:

  • Product development in Finland by Marketta Luutonen
  • Education Programs at the Swedish Handicraft School
  • Planned crafts exhibition presented by Kerstin Adersson Ahlin
  • Relation between craftspeople and shops by Outi Hägg
  • Problems of crafts promotion in Estonia by Liivi Soova
  • Training of sales personnel by Martin Stüssi

During the conference we discussed also new targets for the Federation

  • To deepen contacts between national and international organizations
  • Try to get support from EU, a task delegated to G. Kellner and M. Stüssi
  • Possibilities to establish a label to protect national crafts

Cooperation with Cultural EU projects

Invitation to ‘Gift Market’ in Firenze by Carlo Vezani in 1998.

To discuss seriously to apply for a grant by the EU was a great challenge for the Federation. It had to be a large project in the size of 500’000 €, 50% raised

by us. Condition would be that Dr. G. Kellner with Linzer Heimatwerk would give a guarantee regarding the finances of the project.

In 1998 the Swedish Federation offered a very exiting program, e.g. to visit the nation handicraft exhibition in Stockholm and their school in Sätergläntan. We were

informed by experts about details regarding the planning of the exhibition and also the targets of the school.

We had the opportunity to discuss separately internal subjects of our Federation:

  • Exhibition in Florence: there was a limited interest from both sides. – Later the idea was abandoned
  • PR material for the Federation:
    A booklet, a prospectus or map of Europe with addresses of all our sales points was discussed. Later we decided to concentrate on internet presence.
  • Further information about a possible for EU project were given. – A comity was elected to deal with this subject: G. Kellner, K. Andersson, P. Martinez, M. Stüssi

Appointments in Brussels, 27.10.98

  1. Kellner, P. Martinez Massa and M. Stüssi had 4 meetings in Brussels. In general our projects were too small. Integration was required into existing EC Commission cultural projects such as KALEIDOSKOP or RAPHAEL.

The Oberösterreichische Heimatwerk invited  for a working weekend in Linz in 1999 to take, after fundamental discussions, a final decision whether we wanted to apply for a financial support by the EC Commissions for a project.

A few points were vital to be accepted by all participants:

  • Common target to be accepted by all participants
  • 50% of the country project have to be guarantied locally
  • to keep exactly to the given time table regarding the elements of the application and the implementation

The positive decision to carry on was influenced considerably by the fact that Norway and Finland had national projects in the pipe line which could be integrated. Norway offered us their logo: RINGS IN WATER..

The final decision was taken to carry on at full speed enthusiastically. – In the night the forms for the participants to be handed in for the application were prepared and also the exact time schedule could be handed out before departure. – Only Sweden and Denmark informed us that they could not participate.

On the basis of complete documents handed in by the participants in time, G. Kellner and M. Stüssi managed to sent the application documentation, a 10 cm high pile with 120 pages, in time to Brussels (25.3.99)

An other conference was planned on an invitation of ULUV, Bratislava for the period 9th to 12th July, assuming that the reaction of Brussels on our project would have arrived.


Conference in Bratislava, 9.-12.6.99

The target of the conference in Bratislava (1999) was to make decisions regarding the implementation of the project RINGS IN WATER. The handicap was that we had jet no answer from Brussels. We new we would get it on the departure day (12.6.99). In this situation we took unanimously the decisions that if we would not get the expected support, to carry out the project nevertheless, but in smaller size according our possibilities. – The positive message came from the EC Commission in the afternoon of the 12th July. We could celebrate the good news only in a small circle, because most of the delegates had already left.

During the conference several important points had to be discussed:

  • seminars, form and location first Denmark was in discussion
  • exhibition Ring in Water only internal presentations
  • publication to be discussed later
  • presence internet Kellner informs about plans
  • required reports according prescriptions
  • book keeping for Brussels instructions from S. Sperr
  • we have to have new statutes
    according EU law Kellner / M. Stüssi

The meeting in Waller/Linz  in 2000 was the harvest of the project Rings in Water. The target was well understood by the participating artist:

– traditional crafts people create objects for modern everyday’s life

– modern artists introduced in there work elements of national traditions

The results were shown in a exclusive exhibition and in a booklet with photos of the artists, the inspiring element and the new crafts work.

The great event started with a symposium together with the crafts people present, showing examples of their work, followed by intensive discussions. – We also were invited to the parallel Austrian program with a national exhibition. Altogether a great event, giving present members and craft people important impulses for future activities together with their regional organization. We are thankful to Dr. Georg Kellner, to organize with his crew this most interesting symposium, offering us a fine program during our days in Wallern.

The last event was the Member’s General Conference held in Linz.

  • Georg Kellner was elected new President.
    He was holding a laudatio on the retiring President Irene Vestlund
  • She was elected with acclamation Honorary President.

The general discussion about the project RINGS IN WATER was very positive. The main remarks were:

Austria: to go on with RIW project. It was an inspiring work show for crafts people.

Denmark: enlightening people; finding ways to reduce the generation gap; topic of national identity; project involving schools; concentration on one/two materials

Norway: involving craft into schools, upgrading skills; links throughout schools in Europe, sharing of information in Europe

Finland: works on influencing people and associations to gain more interest in crafts, also to find more members for the organization.

Slovakia: schools are important; also to get feedback from other countries and international exchanges

Italy: international exchanges, to bring young people into workshops where they learn on the spot from the masters

Hungary: education in style and design, to educate good  teachers; promoting and selling

In all, the project RIW can be declared as a great success, with surprising figures:
– crafts people participating                       1446
– number of seminars                                   49
– number of exhibitions                               132
– number of visitors in exhibitions ca.     185’000
– publications                                               20

Also the final financial figures of the project were excellent for such a big action with 8 countries involved. – The total expenses of the project were 359’000 €. We were about 600 € under the budget. (Internally with selling booklets nearly 2’000 €  above target). Our financial report to Brussels was accepted quickly. (Unusual to the payment moral (always late) the he final payment came to our surprise very quick. But we never received a critical analysis regarding the implementation and the results of RINGS IN WATER. A special thank you to our chancellor Stefan Sperr who guided us competently through all financial traps of RIW.

2000 we have taken up 2 new members: Denmark (again) and Valle Aosta.

In the next year we recover from the big efforts, the first big project of our Federation. Common activities were reduced. This year we had a meeting of the Executive Committee in Tallinn in 2001. Mrs Liivi Soova was  hosting the meeting.. We learned a lot at the symposium she organized and admired the wonderful new developed objects in an exhibition.- Also the medieval market we visited was a big excitement. – In general we all observed with great interest what was going on in several countries as an after effect of RIW. Several new exhibitions were organized with new targets. The trend was to inspire crafts people to make more modern sellable products. Particularly Austria, Estonia, Slovakia and Hungary made a great step forward in this direction.

The Federation was as a whole focusing on the information from Brussels to find out whether we could participate in a new project within the program CULTURE 2000 lasting 5 years. As for each year a different themes were given, we realized that only in the year 2004 the promoted projects was of interest for us. So we concentrate our thinking on a new application in 2003.

In the intermediate time we had a conference in Kerteminde Denmark  in 2002

Our first RINGS IN WATER project with 1400 participating crafts people, about 100 exhibitions and 50 seminar had a great impact, but furthermore, in several countries subsequent activities were initiated with much success. The following delegates reported about these events.

Austria In Linz, in the main museum of folk art (Schlossmuseum), a “bridge was built“ between crafts of the centuries 17th-20th to the actual products created and sold in the “Heimatwerk”. Showcases were installed near the museum objects in which the corresponding contemporary products were displayed. A large catalogue distributed to us was maid for about 30 examples regarding different crafts. The exhibition will be shown in 2003 in 4 other museums.

Estonia (Liivi Soova)
Further exhibitions were made in the country side and also in Tallinn, combined with a seminar (2 days) with highly qualified speakers. – In October 2002 a competition with crafts people was taking place to create new items for gifts.

Finland (Dr. Marketta Luutonen)
A seminar was held and an exhibition was prepared on an island near Helsinki, perhaps a reason for the fairly low figures of visitors.

Norway (Solveig Torgesen)
– at the beginning the people in the smaller country side groups  were sceptical about the project, but enthusiasm grew with the time.
– the great exhibition could not take place because of lack of money. They probably started too late to find sponsors.
– surprisingly it was difficult to find crafts people for  the participation.

Slovakia  (Milan Beliak)
ULUF has invited one year after RIW already under the same heading for an exhibition in their gallery in Bratislava. In 2002 they organised al large competition, Slovakian RINGS IN WATER II. The resulting exhibition had a high standard as avant-garde crafts manifestation. The published catalogue to this event is an excellent publication which was distributed to us.

Hungary (Zoltan Fabry)
After the seminar in Heves in the context of the original RIW project, with presentations of textiles, it was clear that more emphasis has to be given to the promotion of contemporary products for practical use. The seminar with an exposition in 2002 brought a turn about to more modern textiles. – For 2003 an other exhibition for masters of all kind of crafts is planned with the target to integrate more knowledge about traditional crafts, particularly old techniques and to promote the transfer of this knowledge to a new generation.

The weakness of the Hungarian organisation is located clearly. The problem of out lets for the produced items is not solved. The marketing side has to be re-established. Shops should be opened for crafts people, in a first step in Budapest.

An other suggestion for a future project was the „Virtual Museum“
Dr. Martin Messa is presenting  a project to compile major knowledge about traditional but also modern crafts. An interactive operating program for a classical computers would be established. It could be used in all organisations of our Federation.

In the subsequent discussion the value of such a program was appreciated, but also practical doubts were articulated:
– Many national museums are already working on such projects
– Are the available data vital for us? Isn’t this task not a function of museums?
– The support programmes of EU are limit to one year. This project could not
be established, with data compiled, in such a short period
It was decided that this project would not be pursued in this stage by the Federation.

  1. Kellner, Stefan Sperr and M. Stüssi have discussed the possibility of implementing a new similar project as, RINGS IN WATER.

The target suggested: to make available a profound knowledge about the successful creation oft new products:

The idea was accepted by the country delegates present. But different opinions were put forward. The general line to follow could be:
– Set up the terms for participation of crafts people
– Invite crafts people (competition, exposition, invitation)
– Provide references for traditional crafts as basic martial for creative process
– distribute financial support. Agree on dead line for finishing the project
– set up catalogue for interview with crafts people and provide photos
– carry out interviews clearly structured
– compile data for a publication (a work book for about a 100 products)
of newly developed  objects of the participating countries
– set up internet home page about the project with suitable links

A short conference was held in Innsbruck in 2003. The Agenda was small, but important:

  • we formulate clear targets for the next application regarding a second project with the EU already discussed in Kerteminde.
  • the EU conform articles were a topic which had be brought to an end, but still needed a long discussion.
  • the detail work of the application iswas again delegated to Georg Kellner and Martin Stüssi
  • We decided about the name of the project: LINKS IN CRAFTS

Members: Luigi Lao and Martin Stüssi are trying to form an Italian group with Valle Aosta, South Tyrol, Sardinia.

The manager of ‘Österreichische Werkstätten’ in Vienna  in 2004 (former Wiener Werkstätten) Thomas Bernd invited us to the activities for the celebration of their 100 birthday. Impressive was the large exhibition of ‘Jugendstil’ objects.

Topics of the conference were:

  • the new project with EU, time schedule
  • the application was sent in at the right date, again 120 pages!
  • we discussed what we would do if the project would not be accepted. We probably would try to make it in a smaller size project. Milan Beliak informs us, that if no EU support, he would not get money from the Slovakian government(50%)
  • we have to revise our home pages
  • All country representatives inform about the regional activities.

A short comity meeting was held summer 2005 in Tallin. – First of all we hade to take not of the fact that our second application was no accepted be the EU commission. Actually it was well received, but some figures were missing. But the request for these data did not reach us, due to a transmission mistake.

Bilateral project within the Federation

Due to fact that good friendships have been formed during the passed active years bilateral small project were implemented within the Federation such as:

  • – close cooperation between Finland and Estonia to bring the later on a
    advanced level of performance
  • exchange of exhibitions between Finland and Slovakia
  • training of sales personnel in all Austrian Heimatwerk shops, in theÖsterreichischen Werkstätten, in Estland and Slovakia by Martin Stüssi
  • Slovakian exposition in the ‚Österreichischen Werkstätten’

Barcelona  in 2006, Finality we found an active contact to Spain, particularly with the young dynamic team. They organised an interesting conference

Designated chairman for the General Assembly was the secretary general Martin Stüssi as he president Dr, G. Kellner was not present


     Hungary will be represented in future by two new organizations:

“The Heritage House” and “NESZ” (Cooperative of Masters)
leading is the first mentioned organization

Martin Stüssi was elected Honorary President of the Federation, appreciating his great work for our organization in 22 years. He is also invited to all the future conferences, with travelling cost paid. (At this place I thank you warmly for this invitation for I am most interest, how the Federation is developing, apart from been together with all of you as very good friends.)

No decisions were taken during the general assembly apart from a first task: bringing the internet page of the Federation with its link to the country organisations into good shape.

2006: Elected as new President was  Mrsd Liivi Soova from Estonia.

What she expects from the Federation

  • Information from country organizations regarding their activities
  • Joint meetings (seminars) of crafts people in various crafts fields
  • Participation of crafts people in fairs, markets and exhibitions in other member countries
  • Possibilities to participate for all members in handicraft camps of the Nordic countries
  • Joint project from time to time like “Rings in Water”

Dr. Luigi Lao and the editor Carlo Delfino invited us to Algero, Sardinia in 2007 on their cost to present to us a project: to create a ‘Crafts Map’ of Europe with small photos of objects and local information. It was decided that they should make proposition with a budget.

We also discussed measures against imports of copied national crafts objects. In this respect we should perhaps plan the introduction of a national label (European?)


General Assemblies 2006 – 2018

GA are held in the following countries:



2015: Bratislava, Slovakia

2018   Latvia, Riga


Prof. Dr. Franz Lipp                     1972 – 1980 (8 years)

Mr. Arvi Pappinen                        1980 – 1988 (8 years)

Dr. Luigi Lao                               1988 – 1997 (9 years)

Mrs Irene Vestlund                      1997 – 2000 (3 years)

Dr. Georg Kellner                        2000 – 2006 (6 years)

Mrs Liivi Soova                            2006 – 2009 (3 years)

Secretary General

Mr Albert Wettstein                     1972 – 1984 (12 years)

Mr Martin Stüssi                          1984 – 2006 (22 years)

Mrs Solveig Torgersen Grinder    2006 – 2009 ( 3 years)

Mrs Kerstin Andersson Åhlin        2009 – 2012 (3 years)

Mrs Marketta Luutonen                2012 – 2015 (3 years)

Mrs Solveig Torgersen Grinder     2015 – 2021 ( 6 years)

Meetings and Conferences (1972-2007)           22

Structural changes:

At the General Assembly in 2009 it was decided to combine the two roles President /Chairman and Secretary general  of the Federation. The administration of the  federation will be executed by the organisation where the President/ Chairman works.