Local boutique Artisème is bringing Prague’s traditional artistry and unique craftsmanship to a new, global audience.
You won’t be short of picturesque shops in Prague and as well as the quaint trinket stores where you can pick up a memorable gift or two, veer from the tourist route and venture to Artisème to experience the real shopping of Prague. It is a concept-led design store which essentailly feels like a gallery come retail space. Co-founder Shirin Rahman shares his top tips for seeking out art in the Czech Republic.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your career leading up to your work with Artisème.
Before coming to Prague, I previously worked in luxury retail in London. After graduating from the Anglo-American University here in Prague, I got a job at a procurement company specialising in sourcing furniture for hotels all around the world. A couple of years later, the idea of Artisème was shared with me and I fell in love with the concept from the very beginning.
Tell us a bit more about the beginnings of Artisème.
To be honest, it all began with a plan to open a...café. We visited a few shops and galleries looking for designer pieces to decorate our future interior with and it struck us that, often, the way craftsmanship is presented doesn’t do it justice. The poorer the presentation, the harder it was for us to understand or appreciate the art, let alone choose which pieces we wanted. This was a clear opportunity that we felt prepared both in interest and experience to take on. That's how Artisème (artisan intertwined with Bohéme) was born.
How did you meet your co-founder, and what made you decide to go into business together?
I met Marek Vaculčik back when I was still a student. We quickly became friends and, a few years later, he told me that he wanted to open a space where Prague’s foreigners could indulge in artisan craft without it being called a “shop” or “gallery”. He asked me if I was up for an adventure and, at that point, I was already in love with the vision and couldn't imagine saying no.
What is Artisème’s ultimate goal?
Our goal is to become a globally-recognised destination for handmade décor pieces and art, both on- and offline. We have two core cohorts that we cater to: designers and buyers. On the designer side, we want to give traditional artistry and unique craftsmanship the respect and recognition it deserves. We value the work that goes behind the making of each product and feel that if we apply our creative approach to how it is marketed, then more people would purchase and more designers would survive.
Tell us about the creative industry in Prague and it’s potential challenges.
It's definitely ever-changing, so it's always interesting to watch the creative, cultural, and fashion industry grow. As an expat who's been living in Prague for the past eight years, I can tell that there's been a significant shift in terms of accessibility. In recent years, designers and artists have managed to build a vibrant community in Prague with multiple boutiques, studios, and ateliers opening in different parts of the city.
One of the challenges a lot of young designers face is promotion and sustainability. Many great artists simply do not have the time or resources necessary to market their products/brand - they are, understandably so, too busy focusing on design and creation.
How do you continue to bring the Czech bohemian style and craftwork into the pieces and collections sold at Artisème?
For us, the Bohemian spirit lies in taking a step back from what the trends say we should find beautiful and -- instead -- searching for a definition of our own. Bohemian has always meant something very individualistic and out of the ordinary, so when you combine this with the quality of artisan-ship, the result is absolutely recognisable.
How would you describe the Artisème aesthetic and design?
Our physical space is in the garden lounge of the Grand Priory Palace, founded in 1180 AD. Nowadays, the palace is a part of the National Cultural Heritage scheme, while still serving as the residence of the Grand Prior of The Maltese Knights and an Embassy of the Knights of Malta.
People often ask us what the inspiration behind the aesthetic was and, honestly, the answer is the space itself. We work in one of the most beautiful and historical places in Prague. Seeing the combination of original frescoes on the walls and contemporary Bohemian design objects gives our visitors an exclusive introduction to Czech history and culture -- something we certainly want to translate into our digital brand experiences, as well.
What separates Artisème from other boutiques and spaces in Prague?
Accessibility, curation, and location. What essentially sets Artisème apart from other boutiques in Prague is our dedication to the work. Besides the more obvious differentiator of being located in one of the most stunning locations in the heart of Prague, we are keen to offer the best customer service possible -- both for designers and buyers. This is ingrained in the DNA of our brand and every person on our team.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions people tend to have about the Czech artistic scene?
Many of our visitors are fascinated by the works of young, Czech designers. Besides beer, the Czech Republic is known for its Bohemian crystal worldwide; however, people tend to think that the making of crystal objects is driven by older generations. They haven’t made the difference between traditional and old-fashioned yet, so it comes as a surprise when they see something that’s both hand-blown/hand-cut and modern.
What does working with curators like Jana Trávníčková and Jaroslav Červený teach you about the process of design and creating a distinctive space?
Jana and Jaroslav offer us great insight into the Czech design scene. They’ve also taught us the importance of patience and adaptability when working with various artists. The rules of the creative world are very different from the rules of business. That's where the two of them come in: they build the bridge between these worlds.
Being in design means change if nothing else. There is always something new and, since many pieces are limited edition, Jana and Jaroslav bring them to Artisème straight from the artist’s atelier. That way, our customers are given the chance to see those products first.
Where do you see Artisème in five years - what impact do you hope it will have on your partners, clients, and the Czech art scene?
Where do I see Artisème in five years? In people's homes around the world. Our overarching purpose is to guide people in their discovery and appreciation of design, ultimately thinking of it as a form of self-expression rather than unattainable pieces of art. With our upcoming digital platform and the support it will offer both our designers and buyers, we hope to do exactly that. That way, each carefully-selected piece finds a new loving home!
What will be your main focus throughout the next year - are there any particular projects, partnerships, or events that you'll be focusing on?
Our main goal for this year is to continue delivering excellent customer service and to reach more of our target markets. Our e-shop should be live shortly, along with its extended portfolio of Bohemian design. Since our physical space has its limitations in terms of display areas, our e-shop will have a greater variety of Czech craftsmanship.
Everyone is always more than welcome in Artisème. One of us will always be there to tell you the details behind some of your favourite pieces, offer you a cup of coffee, and invite you to enjoy all that the Artisème space has to offer.