Guest Post by Kristin Vukovic
Pag is a northern Croatian island made famous by its intricate handmade lace called Paška čipka, and Paški sir, its unique sheep’s milk cheese. The dry and craggy island of 8,000 inhabitants has a long tradition of cheese making and agriculture—and the island’s sheep play a starring role.
There are 30,000 tagged autochthonous sheep on Pag Island, and a few thousand “untagged” that roam free outside of organized flocks. Come shearing season in June, each sheep gives approximately 1 kilo of wool—that’s 66,000 pounds of wool annually! Presently, shepherds leave the wool lying in their pastures, which is unfortunate in many ways: the wool itself is wasted, and nothing can grow where the wool is left to rot.
Ivo Butković is a Pag Island native and founder of the Suhozid Association, which literally translates as “The Drywall” Association. The organization takes its name from the drystone building technique still used today in Croatia. Suhozid aims to preserve the cultural heritage of Pag Island by creating projects that bring awareness to island’s wealth of history and natural resources.
One of Suhozid’s projects, which has been in the works for the past few years, involves building a real drystone “ethno village” in the town of Kolan that would allow visitors to see how people used to live on Pag Island. Discarded wool will be used to show tourists how the fibers were processed to use as material for clothing, and how crafts were made in old times. Wool clothing, accessories and souvenirs will be available for purchase in the ethno village. Suhozid hopes the project will be live by summer 2012.
Kolan’s ethno village will not be able to use all 66,000 pounds of Pag Island wool produced annually, which is why I’m determined to find an eco-fashion partner that will bring awareness to the issue of discarded wool on Pag Island by helping make use of it.
The wool could be used to make a limited edition or capsule collection, and include a tag that reads:
Wool from Pag Island’s autochthonous sheep was used to make this garment. By purchasing this item, you are helping Croatian shepherds maintain a sustainable lifestyle. A portion of the proceeds benefit the next generation of Pag Island shepherds.
Images by Kristin Vukovic.