Wednesday, 01 July 2015 21:10

A tradition of craftsmanship

Pana at her shop Pana at her shop

There may be a lot of new shops selling mass-produced goods in Limassol, but scattered in between, you can still find some little gems.

Panayiota Sharpe, known by her many friends and customers as ‘Pana’, grew up in Cyprus, the daughter of a shoemaker. It is a trade she later went on to learn.

Today, she is no longer designing shoes, but her leatherwork certainly shows her talent and her life story is certainly an interesting one.

Shoe design at Cordwainers

In 1974, Panayiota went to London to complete a secretarial course, but felt that this was not quite ‘her thing’. Without her parent’s knowledge, she enrolled in a course for shoe design at the world-famous Cordwainer Technical College. Pana had thus decided to secretly and quite literally step into her father’s footsteps.

During that time, she met her husband who was studying the technology of shoe production. After their studies, they returned to Cyprus together where Pana worked as a designer for two big shoe factories. By then she had realised just how creative she was, and shortly after returned to England to study handbag design on a two-year evening course whilst also working for a Cypriot shoemaker on Tottenham Court Road who was making shoes for actors, dancers and other made-to-measure footwear.

She got to work with the greats, people like Brook Shields and Diana Rigg, and perfect her skills.

New country, a new craft

Work took her husband to Saudia Arabia, where Pana once again decided she wanted to learn more creative skills and enrolled in a patchwork course. Thanks to this new skill and passion she opened Pana’s Patchwork when they returned to Cyprus. She found patchwork an inspiration and knew that there were no shops selling handmade patchwork products.

The shop

The shop has been existing successfully since 1999 and has become somewhat of an institution to local artists and crafts lovers and to foreign visitors who usually first discover Pana on a stroll through the old town. The shop is located on Saripolou Street and the constantly changing, quaint-looking shop window draws many curious passers-by in to have a look around.

The former shoemaker has a very friendly disposition and is a great networker, online and offline, known and respected for her outstanding skills and talents in and outside of Cyprus.

Pana produces many things including different decorative items and party favours, but her unique leather work has really made her a name.

Many of her customers who bought a bag whilst visiting Limassol from abroad, will later order a new model, having gotten used to owning a custom made ‘Pana bag’. Watching her in action is a treat, whether she’s cutting up someone’s old leather jacket, placing a zipper into a wallet or fitting patterns onto a large piece of leather.
She may no longer work as a show maker, but working as a handbag designer certainly is a unique skill at a time when good craftsmanship is rarer and rarer to come by.

More information can be found on her Facebook profile Panabags Pana Sharpe, or by calling 99416733.

As published in the Cyprus Weekly, June 26 2015 

Mary Anglberger

I’ve been travelling the world for over 20 years teaching English and am now taking time to follow my passion for photography and writing. I want to share all the things, events and people that have inspired and inspire me and spread those positive vibes all around.

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