After property rights were granted to peasants in the second half of the 19th century and their financial situation improved, more people wanted to emphasize and display their wealth by elegant and decorative clothes, ornaments in and on their homes and ornate everyday objects. Elegant carriages were commissioned to be flaunted on various occasions such as fairs, church celebrations and weddings. The period also saw the heyday of folk and artistic blacksmithing – in Poland and in the Lubelszczyzna region. Blacksmithing catered to the aesthetic needs of the people, according to their preferences when it comes to forms and decorative motifs. However, the craft was not as diversified in styles as, for example, tailoring.
Decorative metal shaping was the most popular ornamental technique and was used to create fittings for doors, furniture and carriages and to form window bars. The technique of stacking thin, shaped or openwork metal sheets together was less common. The openwork technique was typically used for chest and trunk fittings. More often blacksmiths would emboss patterns with stamps – especially on the fittings on carriages, on various iron tools, hinges, crosses, less frequently on locks.
Blacksmith ornaments were characterized by a simple form and a clear composition which was dominated by the principles of symmetry and rhythm. Geometrical ornaments (rhombus, trapezoids, ellipses, circles, crosses, stars, hearts) were most common in horizontal and central compositions, while simple floral motifs (leaves, flowers, twisting twigs, vine stems) and animal motifs (bird heads, hens, roosters, eagles, snakes, dragons, horses – used individually or in symmetrical pairs) were less common. Blacksmithing items such as door and window hinges, locks and latches (which were originally made of wood), and later pin locks, hasp staples (staples for padlocks), spring locks with door handles and backplates and window bars were also typically shaped and ornamented. Metal sheet ornaments were used on roofs as windfeders, finials and weathercocks, at the end of drainpipes, as elements of furniture (chest fittings and hinges, lock plates in chests, dressers and wardrobes), as home tools (cleavers), farming tools (sickles, hammers, plough blades) and craft tools (anvils, bellow nozzles, clamps, hammers, drawknives, wood planes, axes) and carriage fittings (shafts, steps, backrests, basket fittings).
Iron crosses constituted a separate branch of folk artistic blacksmithing. They were forged by local blacksmiths and placed on graves, cemetery gates or on top of roadside shrines and crosses. In the Lubelszczyzna region it was also popular to place metal sheet ornaments on the surface of wooden crosses – these were circular, lace cut sheets, rectangular or triangular metal flakes with embossed floral or geometric ornaments, shaped, semicircular, metal roofs with lace edges or rooster figures on top of the crosses.
Gauda A., Ludowe krzyże żelazne na Lubelszczyźnie [Traditional iron crosses of the Lubelszczyzna region], „Twórczość Ludowa” 1990, no. 2, p. 31-36.
Gauda A., Ludowe krzyże żelazne na Lubelszczyźnie [Traditional iron crosses of the Lubelszczyzna region], „Studia i Materiały Lubelskie” 1987, vol. 12, p. 109-144.
Powiłańska-Mazur D., Kowalstwo ludowe na terenie Lubelskiego Zagłębia Węglowego [Folk blacksmithing in the Lublin Coal Basin], „Twórczość Ludowa” 1995, no. 2-3, p. 47-53.
Reinfuss R., Ludowe kowalstwo artystyczne w Polsce [Traditional artistic metalwork in Poland], Wrocław 1983.
Reinfuss R., Polskie ludowe kowalstwo artystyczne [Polish folk artistic metalwork], „Polska Sztuka Ludowa” 1953, no. 6, p. 348-376.
Zwolakiewicz K., Krzyże żelazne, szczytowe i ozdoby krzyżów przydrożnych z okolic Łęcznej [Iron and top crosses, and wayside crosses ornaments in the Łęczna area] , „Orli Lot” 1929, p. 126-129.