About people and for the people – activity of The Centre for Folk Art Production (Ústredie l’udovej umeleckiej výroby, ÚĽUV)

The Centre for Folk Art Production (Ústredie l’udovej umeleckiej výroby, ÚĽUV) was established on the basis of Decree of President No. 110/1945 issued in 1945. ÚĽUV is a contributory organization of the Ministry of Culture, established by the Act no. 4/58 Coll. from 1958.

ÚĽUV’s main purpose is to preserve, document and promote the knowledge, skills, processes and aesthetic patterns (arising from the use of natural materials) of traditional folk art productions and thus preserving them for future generations.

ÚĽUV is responsible for the:
– documentation of traditional crafts and folk production,
– assistance to the creation of new production for craftsmen,
– technical consultations to craftsmen and general public,
– maintenance of collections and fund documentation,
– publication of professional titles and journals about crafting,
– organization of exhibitions, festivals and presentations of folk art crafts,
– organization of crafting classes for the general public,
– library and information services,
– information about all associated processes of traditional folk art production to the public.

Exhibitions are held in specialized showrooms, with the aim of presenting contemporary folk art pieces and design inspired by tradition and folk crafts. The festival of traditional crafts and folk productions, Dni majstrov ÚĽUV (Craftsmen Days) has been organised on regular basis in Bratislava since 1900. ÚĽUV’s publishing activities include series for children, craftsmen profile series, publications on various branches of folk craft – how to acquire the basic of bobbin lace making, making cornhusk dolls, decorating honey cakes etc. The magazine RUD (Remeslo_umenie_dizajn; Craft, Art, Design), published since 2000, focuses on craft traditions and their use in the contemporary products by craftsmen and professional artists. Since 2004 a biannual competition called Ring in Water (Kruhy na vode) is also being held. It promotes traditional folk crafts and their cross-over modernisation towards the present day. ÚĽUV cooperates especially with European Federation of Folk Art and Crafts, International Organization of Folk Art (IOFA), Euroart, The World Crafts Council (WCC), The International Council of Museums (ICOM) and The International organization of bobbin lace and the lace sewing (OIDFA).

You can find ÚĽUV in Bratislava, Banská Bystrica and Košice.

The “Rings in Water” Project – Main Ideas and History

ÚĽUV Bratislava, convinced that craft-oriented design / design that highlights the culture of handmade decorative and functional objects is currently the driving force of innovation in realm of folk art production, has been organizing regular rounds of competition termed, “Rings in Water“ since 2000. The competition is a domain where cherished handmade works influenced by locality are confronted with contemporary design, especially in terms of mobility and globalism, permanent innovation, hybridity, and intermediate states.

The competition aims to:
a. Stimulate the emergence of new, innovative craft works and design, inspired by the traditional manufacturing and folk art of Slovakia.
b. Promote the preservation and the continuity of artisanal craft and to secure the creator’s access to natural materials.
c. Promote international cooperation and creative partnerships among designers, artists, and craftsmen who dedicate themselves to traditional craft and folk production.
d. Exhibit works – the results of a beneficial relationship between craft and design to the public.
e. Bring in a new assortment of original and limited edition products and their processes of production to ÚĽUV collections.

The competition is open to designers, artists, craftsmen, manufacturers, students attending secondary vocational schools / high schools and universities, and others who meet the conditions of competition.
– Contestants are grouped and judged by three sections:
a. Section A – designers, producers, artists, university students
b. Section B – secondary school students / high school students
c. Section C – Individual Awards – all competitors are considered
– The competition is open to individuals or teams.

Section A has five categories of competition. Four are for preserving the use of natural materials that have been utilized in the past – metal, wood, fabric, and ceramics or a combination of the four. It is also possible to use other natural materials. The fifth category allows a range of freedom in the choice of materials and is open to experiment and controversy.
Section B is evaluated only in one category: metal, wood, textiles, ceramics, and/or other natural materials used in production.
Section C allows the competition host to present individual awards. For each round of competition, the host may define the conditions for bidding for the individual awards.

All work chosen by the judging panel will be publicly presented at the exhibition which is to be prepared by the host. The awarded works will be specially represented during the exhibition.

Slovak arts and crafts traditions

Slovak arts and crafts traditions are very impressive but, as with any other country, it is worth analysing them with the geographic context in mind. For instance, Fujara, a well-known traditional instrument that originates from the central part of Slovakia, or Čičmany patterns, which made a name for themselves as decorative elements of wooden huts (exterior wall ornaments were painted white against the dark background of the said walls), have recently been dusted off by the fashion industry.

The Western part of Slovakia – Záhorie and the Small Carpathian region are known for wine production and ceramics production which derives from Haban ceramics – faience crockery which have been produced since the mid-sixteenth century in Slovakia, Switzerland, Tyrol, Transylvania and Moravia by itinerant craftsmen, mainly the Anabaptists expelled from Italy and Swabia.

When we talk about crafts, there are some typical techniques or common materials which are very common in some regions, for instance: Považie (the region around the Váh river) – tinker, embroidery, woodcarving, Spiš (eastern part of Slovakia) – indigo printing, honey cake making, metal smiths, Gemer – Malohont (between the eastern and central part of Slovakia) – pottery, bell founding, weaving, furriery.

When we are talking about traditional folk costumes, there are so many differences. ÚĽUV has them in an Encyclopaedia on its webpage, but unfortunately it has not been translated into English yet (http://www.uluv.sk/sk/encyklopedie/tradicny-odev-slovenska/vyskumy-tradicneho-odevu-uluv/).

It is also worth mentioning crafts that are characteristic of Slovakia and which are currently threatened with extinction as far as its original and authentic form is concerned. These include: shingle making (spruce roof material), rope making, and traditional indigo print. At present, there are two projects in Slovakia that aim to revive the unique tradition of fabric (cloth) colouring.

Blue Blue(s)

The Students of the J. Vydra School of Applied Arts, led by their teachers, show that traditional blueprint technology can come alive in the design of today. Tune in to blue and come to Design Studio to look at modern blueprint fabrics, blueprint block forms, and also at bags, clothes, pillows or a notebook cover.

After the death of blueprint craftsman pioneer Stanislav Trnka in 2010, the activities of the workshop in Púchov ceased. Although sporadic initiatives have appeared, blueprint technology has been in recent years, more or less, an “endangered species”. That is why the activities of the J. Vydra School of Applied Arts are an interesting venture. The students and teachers revive here in our environment this vanishing technique.

The work is done by the students of the Fine Arts Department who work with textiles under the direction of Anne Bohatová, Ildikó Dobešová, Iveta Miháliková and Eve Klepáčová. The blueprint block forms were made in the Department of Design and Wood-shaping under the direction of Martin Hartiník and Lucie Šupolová.

19 students from the freshman, sophomore and junior years of the Textile Department participated in the project, together with 13 students of the sophomore and junior years of the Department of Design and Wood-shaping.

“Dyed Blue”

The exhibition involves indigo print in tradition and fashion.

The ÚĽUV Gallery, located on Obchodna Street in Bratislava, opened from September 26, 2014 until January 17, 2015 a new exhibition dedicated to the past and the present in blueprint arts and crafts. In addition to selected exhibits from the collections of ÚĽUV, items borrowed from the Liptov musem in Ružomberok and the collections of the University of Creative Arts in Farnham, the United Kingdom, will be on display. Also being presented are the copyright works of Slovak artists Peter Trnka, Matej Rabada, Dominika Kubičková and Ján Jánoš.

Blueprint patterns, the alchemy of the dying “blue” fabric and the designing of products and clothing from blueprint fabric – all of this comes from the fabric colouring and artistic tradition subject to natural historical changes. In various countries blueprint is still alive today, even though it’s a minority craft, and at the same time it’s a theme to which art schools and modern textile designers are increasingly turning to.

The production of blueprint has moved from its original environment to the artist’s studio, where it’s beginning to live a new life.

Craftsmen Days

The ÚĽUV Craftsmen Days is the largest city festival in Slovakia. The festival enhances the interest of visitors in Slovak traditional culture and crafts. The slogan of the festival “edging out of the crowd,” encourages visitors to show off their origins by spontaneously wearing the elements of the traditional clothing, and this way report to their roots. There are over 100 craftsmen expected to attend and perform their skills in crafts. They will be accompanied by folk ensembles, folk bands and instrumentalists. Visitors can also experience dance schools, ÚĽUV workshops, or a wooden carousel for children. The highlight of the festival will be awarding Master of Folk Art Production. This title is awarded to 6 craftsmen for their merits.
The festival is organized under the auspices of the Minister of Culture of the Slovak Republic and the Mayor of The Capital of the Slovak Republic Bratislava, and it is organized in cooperation with The Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic, The Capital of the Slovak Republic Bratislava, The City District of Bratislava – Stare Mesto and The Bratislava Culture and Information Centre. The festival is included in the program of The Summer of Culture festival Bratislava.
The selection of involved craftsmen is made by ÚĽUV employees from two departments – dept. Care for the craftsmen and Marketing and PR dept. The list of craftsmen is shown to management (general director) and verified or complemented.
Years ago, there was a possibility to invite craftsmen from other countries, but because of financial and tax law in Slovakia it is not that easy now. Therefore it is not attractive for them, because of a lot of paperwork around.

Information and Library Services for Employees and Producers

In ÚĽUV, there is also publishing house and Library (as a department). Library is open to employees, craftsmen, designers, students and teachers, public. Under the basic charge we offer book loan service, tutorials, Internet connection and on-line catalogue, document reservations, scanning documents. ÚĽUV library is a specialized library. From 1945 the book fund was subsidized by distinct publications. Since 1954, when ÚĽUV was incorporated into the Ministry of Culture, library has built in a specialized way. Literature on traditional culture, folk arts and crafts, ethnology, history and culture made major part of the stock.

There are two ÚĽUV libraries open to the public – one in Bratislava and one in Banská Bystrica. The third one is going to be open soon in Košice. There are more than 7 000 publications in the library in Bratislava. We provide publications and documents in different languages. Literature from Nordic countries is also very popular.

Support of Craftsmen

Every craftsman or artist is able to ask for help and support. That’s why ÚĽUV has particular department with consultants focusing on every material (textile, wood, metal,..). To take care after craftsmen is one of the main aims of ÚĽUV. They can apply for registration in the Register of craftsmen, or they can manage their own profile at ÚĽUV webpage.

ULUV designer helps in product development of traditional craft. We offer free consultation for craftsmen in regards to questions of quality of production and focusing of product assortment, expertise in the field of sewing traditional clothing, mediation of production of costumes. Members of traditional craft clubs meet in ÚĽUV spaces. Every year Preliminary board specifies 6 craftsmen – holders of title Master of folk art production. ÚĽUV offers also educational courses, seminars, workshops, and lectures for craftsmen.

The Museum of Folk Arts and Crafts

ÚĽUV has been active in documenting folk art productions for almost seven decades. The act from 1958 establishing ÚĽUV made the organisation obliged to “conduct research and documentation in the field of folk art production and to process the results of such work professionally”. By conducting research, the ÚĽUV experts assembled a large collection of items which served as a reference base for later folk art production.

In August 2008, the Ministry of Culture of SR established the Museum of Folk Arts and Crafts. The Museum of Folk Arts is based on the results of the previous systematic documentation activities of ÚĽUV. The new specialised workplace continues with processing and digitalizing the collections in order to prepare them for future exposition.

By the end of 2011, the Museum collections comprised 10 312 items, majority of them made of textile and almost 3 000 items made of other materials such as ceramics, wood, metal, leather, horn, glass-painting and Easter eggs.

The Museum works as an open depository allowing researchers, professionals and students to explore its large collections of folk art pieces and documents. The previous arrangements of the study visit with the curator and head of the Museum are necessary.

Translated by Aleksandra Bubiło