Where to Buy Handmade Textiles, Souvenirs and Gifts in Tbilisi, Georgia

Like most capital cities these days, Tbilisi is overflowing with souvenir shops—most of them peddling the same range of knickknacks. Similarly, most Tbilisi souvenir guides will point tourists to the same few stores and markets, notably the Meidani Market and the Dry Bridge Market.

Visiting the Meidani Market was a great experience; but the souvenirs on offer were a little too commercial for my taste. While I loved rummaging through the treasures on offer at the Dry Bridge Market, I found it a bit overwhelming. When I couldn’t quite find what I was looking for at either location, I did some research to find alternative souvenir shops.

 


 

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Traditional Georgian souvenirs

Edible souvenirswine, chacha, honey, churchkhela and tea—are all hugely popular take-homes from Georgia. For practical reasons (transport logistics and customs restrictions back in Australia), it wasn’t possible for us to pick up many edible souvenirs. We made an exception for a few packets of dried blue fenugreek (a spice that’s used heavily in Georgian cooking), which we purchased at a Carrefour supermarket in Tbilisi.

Pieces of kitsch Soviet memorabilia are also extremely popular souvenirs. The Dry Bridge Market is without a doubt the best place to find this sort of merchandise. Stallholders there peddle everything from Russian-made film cameras to KGB ID books (these are both items I actually purchased).

 

© Emily Lush 2017 | Tbilisi souvenirs; traditional Georgian souvenirs; shopping in Tbilisi; best souvenirs from Tbilisi; souvenirs from Georgia country
A silverwear vendor at the Dry Bridge Market in Tbilisi.

Many tourists seek out big-ticket items, like antique Caucasian carpets and kilims. If you can afford it, a rug makes for a wonderfully authentic souvenir to take home from Georgia. If, like me, you’re on a budget, you can also find rugs at the Dry Bridge Market—although they often aren’t in the best condition.

Keep reading: My round-up of museums, galleries and boutiques for textile lovers in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Enamelware, felted items and lurji supra—Georgia’s famous blue tablecloths—also make for popular handmade gifts. Keep reading to find out some of my favourite spots for finding handmade textiles and souvenirs in Tbilisi.

 

© Emily Lush 2017 | Tbilisi souvenirs; traditional Georgian souvenirs; shopping in Tbilisi; best souvenirs from Tbilisi; souvenirs from Georgia country
Clockwise – Black Dog Shop (this photo only by Nino Gvalia); Ceramic Studio 1300; Funduki; Gallery 27.

Where to buy souvenirs in Tbilisi

There are three questions I always ask before I buy a souvenir when I’m travelling: ‘Was it made in the country?’; ‘Was it made by hand?’; and ‘Was it traded for a fair price?’ Having travelled for several years now—most of the time with carry-on only—I just don’t see the point in wasting my money and luggage space on cheap, mass-produced or imported souvenirs. To me, the best souvenirs have a history and a connection to the place you’re buying them from.

Here are five retail spots in Tbilisi that stand out from the crowd and stock gifts and souvenirs that fit my criteria. At the end of this post you’ll find a map to help you locate each address.

 

The Flying Painter concept store & Ceramic Studio 1300.

Fabrika

The yard outside Fabrika Hostel is a one-stop shop if you’re looking for quirky gifts handmade by young and independent Georgian artists and designers. Black Dog Shop stocks a great range of prints, notebooks and stationary; Ceramic Studio 1300 has beautiful hand-painted tableware; Funduki carries cute accessories like colourful Georgian slippers knitted from local wool; and The Flying Painter stocks garments and accessories designed in collaboration with local artists. All these stores double as workshops, so you can see objects being crafted right before your eyes – and have a friendly chat with the person who’s designing and making them.

Fabrika Tbilisi
8 Egnate Ninoshvili St (close to Marjanashvili metro station)

Did you know that you can stay the night at Fabrika? Read my review of the boutique hostel here.

 

Tbilisi History Museum

Gallery 27 and Sayat-Nova, two of the city’s most popular souvenir shops, are located together on the ground floor of the Tbilisi History Museum. Both boast an excellent if not predictable range of Georgian souvenirs, including felted outerwear, enamel jewellery and lurji supra, Georgia’s famous blue tablecloths. It’s a good place to start if you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for. Be aware that shopkeepers in Gallery 27 may not be able to answer all your questions about certain items.

Tbilisi History Museum
8 Sioni St (close to Sioni Cathedral in Old Tbilisi)

 

© Emily Lush 2017 | Tbilisi souvenirs; traditional Georgian souvenirs; shopping in Tbilisi; best souvenirs from Tbilisi; souvenirs from Georgia country
EthnoDesign—one of my favourite souvenir shops in Tbilisi, Georgia.

EthnoDesign

The Georgian Heritage Craft Association was established to safeguard the country’s applied arts, including lurji supra. The Association’s flagship store, EthnoDesign, is a real treasure trove of specialty crafts sourced from different regions. It’s also a platform for homeworkers and small co-ops to sell their wares in Tbilisi, and many collections are accompanied by information cards that tell you a little bit about the artist. I’m not a fan of felt, but the felted wall hangings here are stunning! EthnoDesign also stocks blue tablecloths, but the shopkeeper informed me that these particular ones aren’t made in Georgia.

The shop has no website, but they do have a Facebook page.

EthnoDesign
Cnr of Giorgi Akhvlediani & Nikoladze Sts (close to Rustaveli metro station)

 

Tinatin Kldiashvili gallery & shop

Professor Tinatin Kldiashvili is the Dean of the Design Faculty at Tbilisi State Academy of Arts. Along with her colleague Ketevan Kavtaradze, she has embarked on an ambitious project to recreate lurji supra tablecloths using the old techniques of wax-resist and block printing. Many of the contemporary blue tablecloths stocked at gift stores in Tbilisi were made in her laboratory (and are distinguished by the hand-printed fabric tag that carries her name and email address – although not all cloths have a tag sewn on).

Professor Kldiashvili’s own pop-up gallery/shop stocks a small range of tablecloths alongside paintings and wearable art made by her students and colleagues at the Academy. These are the same tablecloths you’ll find in Gallery 27, but they are notably cheaper if you buy them direct. Ketevan Kavtaradze often sits behind the register here and will happily tell you all about the project.

The gallery/shop doesn’t appear to have a name, and I haven’t been able to find any information about it online.

Tinatin Kldiashvili gallery & shop
River-end of Jan Shardini St (just around the corner from Gallery 27 and close to the Meidani market).

Learn more about lurji supra and other textiles in the Caucasus – check out my round-up of museums, galleries and boutiques for textile lovers.

 

 


 

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2 comments on “Where to Buy Handmade Textiles, Souvenirs and Gifts in Tbilisi, Georgia

  1. Cynthia Abi-Habib

    Hi, I just came back from Tblisi and was very disappointed that I was not able to buy the traditional blue Georgian tablecloth with birds imprinted on it. Can you please tell me how I can buy one & have it sent to the United States? I want the tablecloth to be made of natural materials (not polyester) and be 2.5 to 3 meters long. Thank you.

    • Hi Cynthia,

      Sorry to hear that you missed out! The tablecloths made by Tinatin Kldiashvili at the Academy of Arts are the most authentic being produced in Georgia right now. They are indeed printed on cotton, and some have bird designs. I’m not sure how you can purchase them online, though. I would recommend contacting EthnoDesign, one of the stockists: https://www.facebook.com/ethnodesignsocielshop/about/

      Good luck and please let me know if there’s anything else I can help with.

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