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ISHKA in Time: The Flagship Store and Early Years

ISHKA in Time: The Flagship Store and Early Years

Welcome to the first instalment of ‘ISHKA in Time’, a collection of stories that reveal the colourful history of ISHKA…

ISHKA was founded in 1971 by Michael Sklovsky, a talented local craftsman passionate about eastern philosophy, the arts, free expression and the international trade of world crafts.

The first ISHKA store opened as a humble craft studio in an old building in Glen Iris, where all products sold were made on the premises. Michael suggested the name ISHKA – the name of an Afghan Hound belonging to friends who were instrumental in establishing ISHKA in the early years. The name had an exotic and memorable ring to it, and perfectly captured the spirit of the workshop.

At the flagship Glen Iris store, Michael made and sold a wonderfully diverse range of wares including leather goods, bags, chessboards, belts, bright batik fabrics, clothes and paintings, and assisted with the making of candles and beaded jewellery.

The store became well-known amongst the locals for its free-spirited living room atmosphere, often playing loud music and staying open until late at night. Customers knew they could ring the doorbell anytime and Michael would be there to greet them.

Once by mistake, Michael left the door open to the shop when leaving for the day. Upon his return, he discovered money on the table and a list in different handwritings of stock that had been taken; people had served themselves and recorded the transactions – and all the money balanced!

The local community was clearly fond of its colourful and worldly resident workshop.

1973 was the first year handcrafts from international village communities were imported into the store; Indian clothes and pottery quickly became most popular.

Michael’s own handcrafted goods and works of art became more eccentric and included leather sculptures and sculptural bags, as well as a koala bag for Dame Edna Everage and goanna briefcases with moving tails and heads.

ISHKA became the first store to sell Australian handcrafts, clothes and village crafts from all over the world including Peru, India, Afghanistan and Indonesia. ISHKA also became pioneer designers of interesting furniture crafted from recycled architecture and ox carts.

As ISHKA opened new stores across Australia, a passion for international trade and respect for village communities remained the key inspiration behind the diverse collection of handcrafted and recycled furniture, clothing, gifts and homewares.

Over the years ISHKA has continued to evolve with creativity, humour and cultural wonderment – principles instilled by Michael and pursued by the ever-growing ISHKA family.

Do you have an interesting story about our flagship ISHKA store? Any old photos you’d like to share? We’d love to know! Post a photo to instagram and tag @ishkahandcrafts or send a message on our facebook page!

Stay tuned for more fascinating stories from ISHKA in Time!

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Comments 5
  • I used to know Michael in the 1990’s., I always enjoyed his company.

    Tony Conolan
  • I love the Ishka stores, and was very sad to see our Albury store close it doors about a year ago. These stories of the Artists , the original Glen Iris store sound amazing. With.a living lounge and music what a wonderful concept,
    I shop online but not the same as browsing , smelling the incense, just breathing the relaxing energy these stores hold. They are a magical experience indeed. I hope they re open in the north east Victoria again . Thankyou

    Sharon Knibbs
  • Thank you for including the story of Ishka. Very interesting. I hope you survive Covid19.

  • Hi Guys
    I loved reading your story. I have fond memories of going to that very store in Glen Iris in 1975 (I was 19 years old) where I purchased my first item from Ishka, my beautiful hand woven poncho. I Still wear it to this day!! It is much loved and cared for and still has that sweet wooly animal smell which is infused with my favourite oil, patcholi.
    It has been used as an extra blanket/ bedspread several times and worn to keep me warm over the last 44 years.
    I live in the country now in Far East Gippsland and my nearest store is Traralgon some 2 and a half hours away which I visit whenever I can to buy something special.
    With your recent store closures I was concerned, and traveled to Melbourne to your Clayton warehouse. Having just renovated our home I wanted some special furnishing. I bought 2 bedside tables, a long foot rest, an ottoman and cushions. I love the all. They bring colur and joy to our world.
    Thank you Ishka for all your years of service. And please never close your doors.
    Warm Regards
    An old Hippie at heart.

    Heather Johnson
  • What an amazing and inspirational story! – LOVE the old photos! Is Michael still a party of the Ishka family? – or are any of his family?

    Diana Cimiotti
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