Specialized Handmade Umbrellas
Thomislav Cerovečki – owner
Matea Cerovečki – manager
+385 (0)1 4847417
Working hours: 08:30 – 20:00
"The art of making the Šestine umbrella in the traditional craft workshop Cerovečki is on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Croatia.
(The Šestine umbrella is specific for its red cotton cloth with multicolored stripes, thick wooden shaft and a naturally curving chestnut handle.)"
Oaza: Tell us in short about your family's history in this trade and when did you start doing business in Ilica?
Thomislav Cerovečki: The "Cepanec" umbrella making business was started all the way back in 1912 in Varaždin by Mijo Cepanec, the master responsible for teaching the trade to his nephew, my grandfather, Gabrijel Cerovečki. The business has been in the family ever since, hence I represent the third generation of umbrella makers. My grandfather and father moved the business to Zagreb's Ilica, after a few years of moving around moved into the shop at number 50 and since 2004 we have been here at number 49. So that is more than 80 years of doing business in Ilica and 100 years overall. The space, along with the workshop where all the repairs are done (as with most craftsmen in Ilica) is rented from the Chamber of Trades and Crafts.
Oaza: How does one get practical experience in umbrella making?
Thomislav Cerovečki: Actually, there is no school for it, you learn it from a young age. It is passed on from generation to generation. There was once a trade school for it but unfortunately today it is gone.
Oaza: Are you the only remaining umbrella maker today? What do you offer in your product line?
Thomislav Cerovečki: Yes, I am the only one who handcrafts them. There used to be seven or eight of them and every town had at least one (if not an umbrella maker then at least a repairman). Today we repair and manufacture, it goes hand in hand. Besides me and my wife, there is one other employee and we take on outside contractors when needed. We deal mostly in hand made umbrellas and ladies' parasols.
Oaza: Where do you get high quality materials? Do they differ from the traditional ones?
Thomislav Cerovečki: Mostly from the European Union, usually Italy and Germany. But the selection is not like before, it is hard to get quality raw materials. There is junk, but no quality materials.
Oaza: How long does it take to make one umbrella and what is the average price?
Thomislav Cerovečki: Handmade from scratch – two hours (if it does not have some special features). Prices range from 300-680 HRK. There are, of course, more expensive ones, but that is the average.
Oaza: What specialties or skills are required in your work?
Thomislav Cerovečki: Patience, there is no room for haste. You have to know the technology of the work, you have to obey the rules, what material, what ribs, what size. You have to have patience to put all that together, have a sense of aesthetic and design, know how to pair a handle with good materials. No point in making a good umbrella if you are going to put on the wrong handle. It ruins it.
Oaza: How many umbrella shapes do you make?
Thomislav Cerovečki: We have different sizes, from small, children's sizes to the biggest. Lengths run from 50-76 cm, with differing numbers of ribs (8, 10 or 12). The classic ones or the automatic open umbrellas with a metal or wooden shaft or handle.
Oaza: The Šestine umbrella, your best seller – how come that was the thing that became the symbol of Zagreb?
Thomislav Cerovečki: That is a long story. That pattern was brought here during the Napoleonic conquest and took hold in the northern parts of Croatia, Slovenia, Italy and Austria. We make it in several colors: red, black, green, a whole array of colors. Why did the red one specifically become the symbol of Zagreb? The people of Šestine embraced it, it matched their costumes and today it is an integral part of their folk costume.
Oaza: Do you have any experience collaborating with young designers? What is your attitude towards the convergence of crafts and design?
Thomislav Cerovečki: It is the first collaboration of that kind for us. We have had some inquiries before but, honestly, they never really felt right. They were impossible to do. But in this case, the designer came with an innovative proposal. She came to us with the idea to use the cut of an umbrella to make a raincoat, which we immediately liked. It proved to be a great success! If there are any more ideas or proposals that I believe could be good for us, why not include young associates.
Oaza: How did the process of developing the model and its adaptation go, after the idea concept and plan by designer Ana Rimac? How long did product development take before it was put into distribution? Have you encountered special obstacles considering this was sort of an innovation within your trade?
Thomislav Cerovečki: We developed a prototype relatively quickly for a contest and received a conformation that it was a quality idea in the form of winning the first prize awarded by an expert committee. Afterwards, we started the product development and geared everything towards its realization. We wanted to bring the raincoat to perfection and it took almost a year.
We developed the cuts ourselves and for the sewing hired an associate. It is technologically adapted to our capabilities, so implementing the new product into our product line was relatively easy. Acquiring the belt material posed the biggest challenge. It seems the selection for such specific segments is very limited here.
Oaza: How was the product received by the customers? Is it aimed at a new audience for your shop?
Thomislav Cerovečki: The reception was, and still is, excellent. Clients we have gained range from 7-77 years old. You would not believe it but women over 60 are going crazy for it. Everyone's reaction is very positive! Due to customer demand, last year we also put out a second edition in black (along with the original red).