Author: Diana Guralev

Concise definitions have never been my strength - there is always something to be added, isn't there?

RUKAMI

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Rusyn art is not only about painting, drawing and sculpture in classical terms. It is also the art of men and women who dedicate their talent to handcrafting those pieces that we can actually use in our everyday life.

So, for this post I decided to revisit my dear village, Uličské Krivé, where I interviewed a talented craftswoman, Božena Pročková Kontrová, who has been putting her heart and soul into wonderful hand-made home and wedding décor, head pieces and children’s toys that have been delighting her customers for many years now.

Boženka, tell us something about your family… where are your roots?

I’m from Uličské Krivé and I have six siblings. Each one of us was trained in some vocation. I was drawn to the craft of my maternal Grandmother and so I went to study fashion design in Svidnik to become a seamstress.  

Where did you work before devoting yourself to handmade products?

I used to work in different companies, small and big. I made shoes, work uniforms, children’s clothing…

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When did you realize you wanted to create this way?

It was shortly after I was 30 when I was diagnosed with a genetic heart condition. I underwent a surgery in Bratislava and then a long recovery. My health prevented me from working at the pace I had been used to. It took some time before I started creating my own products, but it turned out to be my hobby. What makes me even happier is the fact that I can actually bring joy to people who like my creations.

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How did the idea of lavender pillows come to you? What are they good for? How long does it take to make one?

To be honest, I’m not really sure. I must have been inspired by a random picture somewhere and tried making one myself. Rather than pillows as such, I create decorative products that can also function as children’s toys. I add lavender into these as well. The first shape I tried was a heart, then a cat, a teddy, a snail… and then I slowly added to my repertoire. Lavender not only lets out a wonderful fragrance, but it also protects your home from moths and ants and has a calming effect. One has to rub the place where lavender is sewn in between their fingers to activate and release the scent. The length of making the lavender pillow depends on the product itself. The easiest and fastest to make are hearts. If, for example, a bride orders them as name tags for her wedding, it can take me up to a week to finish.

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I know you also make something very special and very Rusyn. Could you tell us a bit more about what a “parta” is?

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“Parta” is a headband, or a head piece, that was traditionally worn by young, unmarried girls. Slovakia is incredibly rich in its traditional dresses. Every village had their own “kroj” and their own “parta.” It was during the wedding ceremony that the “parta” was taken off the girl’s head and replaced by a bonnet covered with a head scarf. “Partas” were decorated with flowers, beads and ribbons. It could be said that my “partas” are the modern counterparts. They are basically flowered headbands, which do not have the same significance for a girl’s social status as before because even married women wear them as hair decorations these days. I also make “partas” for brides to use in a traditional wedding ceremony called “čepčenie” and these are decorated with folk-patterned ribbons to look like the real deal.

What achievements do you have behind you and what projects are ahead of you?

My greatest achievements are my two daughters and my grandson who make me really happy. I’m also very satisfied when people praise what I create for them. I would like to present my creations at handmade markets and events where I can teach children how to make them. I regularly participate in one wedding exhibition in Kosice where I can meet future brides who want my products as name tags or party favors for their weddings.

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Do you think Rusyn women have a close relationship with folk art? If so, why?

When we look at the history, Rusyn people weren’t a rich nation. I mean, women didn’t use to buy clothes, but make them for themselves and their families. They sewed their dresses, embroidered shirts for their boyfriends and husbands, they made “partas”, bonnets and they weaved rugs… they were pure artists. Even now Rusyn women are talented enough, but not everyone can devote their time to creative work. Still, traditions must be preserved at any cost because if we forget who we are and where we are from, our nation will die out, it will disappear.

You can contact RUKAMI via Facebook or Instagram and order your own piece of authentic Rusyn creation to brigthen up your home.

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Rusynkŷ – Русинкы – Rusínske Trio

Rusynkŷ – Русинкы – Rusínske Trio

Pure folk art. Pure women’s art. Pure Rusyn art.

I know I’ve been mostly writing about painters and sculptors. But it hit me today that I hadn’t devoted much time to our wonderful folk art: the embroidery, the dresses, the headpieces and the songs.

Dominka Novotna and her ensemble Rusinske Trio have been incredibly successful promoting our heritage and presenting all of the above in a lovely package. When I listen to their songs and look at their photographs, I can feel that they are deeply connected to their roots and that they are sharing their pride and joy with the rest of the world.

They have recently released a CD with a selection of Rusyn songs. They sing in three part harmony, which is how it is traditionally done in Rusyn songs, and I can’t wait to hear it all. I am looking forward to my copy of their CD in the mail – it should be coming soon! By the way, I’ll be happy to help you with ordering your copy if you need assistance with communicating in Slovakian or Rusyn. Just send me an email at rusynart@gmail.com.

Dominika’s latest project is a collaboration with Kandračovci – the most favorite Rusyn Christmas carol Koly Jasna Zvizda. You can listen to it here:

Serafina Makai – painting on glass

If you liked my post about Silvester Makai, you will sure enjoy this one about his wife, Serafina, who creates beautiful paintings directly on glass. The technique consists of applying the colors on the reverse side of the glass pane, details first, after which the rest of the scenery is filled in. The vivid blue of the welcoming abodes, the energy of the horses galloping towards the viewer, the believability of the cold and crisp winter and the ease of summer make all of these creations alive with emotion and intimate knowledge of the subject matter.

Thanks to Serafina’s and Silvester’s daughter Natasha, and my dear supporter Gavra Koljesar, all of you can enjoy these rare images that they kindly provided for this website.

Silvester Makai – an artist through and through

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Vojvodina has no shortage of wonderful Rusyn painters, photographers, writers, journalists… Silvester D. Makai is yet another one. A native of Kocur, who spent his whole life there just because it was his home and he loved it, is an accomplished sculptor, painter and writer. In February 2017 already the 36th solo art show was organized, this time by The Cultural Center of Kula, a testimony to his quality and popularity as an artist who is able to bring his own artistic vision to life not for anybody else, but for himself, as he puts it.

Makai was born in 1941. After finishing his studies of technical drawing and metalworking, he briefly worked in that vocation only to realize it didn’t give him enough creative freedom. So he went on to study art where one of his teachers was Eugen Kočiš II, from whom he learned a lot and with whom he later collaborated.

Back in Kocur, Makai was commissioned to make sculptures and memorials for the victims of the fascist regime, which was a commission on a large scale that took up all of his time, but in which he could use his technical training as well. Later, he got interested in making sculptures from scrap metal, and his metalworking skills came in handy. Makai was also an art teacher – and all the art forms he was supposed to teach to his students had to master first himself.

The creed that he holds as prerogative for all his art projects is this: follow your original idea through till the end. It requires an immense effort, but it’s worth it.

 

Vladimir Koljesar – the color spectrum wasn’t enough

Vladimir Koljesar (1931-1980) was a painter and ceramist from Kocur, Vojvodina. During his formative years he was restoring religious icons in Austria and designing pottery in Sweden, where he also found his signature style as a painter. His works were well-received by people and critics alike. When he returned home, he worked as a graphic designer and an illustrator.

In his compositions he relied on triangles and circles as his favorite forms, as well as expressive colors juxtaposed and mixed together in ways that often made him dissatisfied – he yearned for more. The detailed geometric figures were inspired by stone, which Koljesar saw as the oldest element surviving in the universe, as nearly eternal, and he wanted to transfer that quality into his works with colors. The sun, and for that matter, the circle turned into his most interesting and most exploited symbols. His sources of inspiration ranged from simple everyday impressions (flowers, lemons on the plate) to more innovative one, such as songs, or even microorganisms as seen under the microscope.

Koljesar painted on what he could afford, mostly using tempera or colored ink on paper or cardboard. Naturally, time is taking its toll on many of his pieces, yet the owners are doing the best they can to preserve as many as possible.