Rings: 10 years of crafts and design competition Rings in Water

This year, it is the first decade of the Rings in Water competition. Almost one thousand designers, visual artists and craftspeople who had participated in it helped to create numerous inspirational ideas about modern crafts and applied arts interconnected with tradition and genuine culture. Crème de la crème of the competition – the works of 87 creative people – has established the basics of the representative exhibition by which the ÚĽUV intends to introduce excellent, unfortunately almost unknown original works to the general public.

Five rings, ten years
For the ÚĽUV, crafts and folk art production is rooted in its mission. It is a distinctive activity for the organisation from its beginnings to maintain close collaboration with craftspeople and producers. Since the mid 1990s, the communication has started to include young artists – designers, visual artists with the help of which the organisation seeks to make connection between wealth and potential of traditional crafts and the contemporary approach and needs. The Rings in Water competition is the most distinctive example of it. The initial project, having been organised as an international competition including the national competitions in eight European countries and which announced nation-specific design and crafts as the main competition topic, proved clearly that artists, especially young ones, had responded with great interest. They worked with old patterns, traditional techniques, folk crafts and culture as with an unknown, therefore an interesting territory. A single event for the rest of participating countries (Norway, Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Austria, Spain and Sardinia), the competition became the initial year of it, now organised regularly, for Slovakia. The competition focused on our local conditions and local cultural context by concentrating mainly on traditional Slovak culture and by offering an opportunity to build on it creatively. Young artists were the ones that came with non-conform and progressive enthusiasm. They believed that tradition is a stepping stone for experiments and a creative game. Thus, a very modern version of traditional musical instrument made from plastic - hurdy gurdy from designer Tomáš Brichta or embroidery-reminding tablecloth set from rubber-coated fabric from Arta Weinerová were awarded. A similar message of the competition became established during the following years. Namely, the message is to utilise modern technologies and materials and to preserve traditional cultural schemes. Artists who focused their attention on innovation of traditional technologies, materials and shapes formed another group that adopted, as we may say, related approach. For example, Tibor Uhrín used various methods of wood processing in his work (form-bending, splitting, chiselling) and developed them within unusual contexts. Therefore, detailed research into traditional methods often took him to very unique designs – bowls Zavináče for example. The bowls are the combination of traditional domestic technology of sieve making and experience from the Swedish bending bowls making. The result is the unique bowls from bent wood, with author-specific joining. Ceramic work of Ivica Markovičová which participated (and was awarded) several times in this most numerous competition category is also worth to mention. She focused on transformations of traditional ceramics, mainly from the eastern Slovakia. Her versions of motives from the Pozdišovce region are distinctive for strong artistic compression and efforts to develop new shapes of traditional jars as allowed by contemporary technologies. Also the minimalist design version of traditional tinkery by Šimon Mišurda is worth to mention. Artisans, both amateurs and professionals, were interested to participate in the competition, particularly in this group. The main topic of the competition opened another interesting question which was solved by several participants – how a man reflects personal, social and cultural identity in the global world. It was “slippers culture” for Tatiana Kubisová, for example. She made a nostalgic (and funny) carpet with slippers which allows becoming comfortable in the world of home memories. Or, Edita Balážová captivated with her animated and lively style in which the influence of Haban ceramics, history of fine arts and the influence of the specific Záhorie region (the home of the author) can be traced.

For the ÚĽUV, decade of the Rings in Water competition is a multiple opportunity. All the best artworks will meet at one place for the first time, direct confrontation is available for the first time. It is the opportunity to study which direction the competition took over the years, which opinions formed it and which signals it makes now, after ten years, towards the professional and general public. We have decided to widen the group of authors participating at the competition and show similarly oriented work within the wider scope, both domestic and international. Contemplating over the concept of the competition has produced several names – Czech designer Eva Jandíková who works with the transformations of the Czech coarse cotton, designer studio LLEV (Eva Mochalová and Marcel Mochal) that work with the development of Czech and world crafts traditions, Michaela Bednárová with her clothing collection including the print of stylised Slovak coat of arms, or Finish designer Tuuli Autio representing typical Nordic line with the strong feelings for natural material or Finnish Anna-Maria Väätäinen who was successful in the initial international Rings in Water competition. Back then, she got recognition by processing of willow wicker. Now, she presents her willow bark objects at this year´s competition. The selection of works could not leave out the works of designers the artworks of whose had already appeared in the Rings in Water competition and the works of whose contribute significantly to the idea of the competition (T. Uhrín, M. Hanula, M. Mládenek). A fashion show of the young Slovak design will be part of the official opening of the exhibition. Author-specific approaches of designers represent the wide scope of opinions on traditional clothes, on traditions, habits in the wider context, on personal traditions and mythologies. Several authors prefer traditional patterns and materials as their personal feature as designers and give them modern look (Ľ. Poncik – modern embroidery with large-scale print, crocheting, bobbin-lace making in clothing accessories). Other authors select a specific element or a theme from traditional culture and they work with it or combine it with other themes (e.g. M. Holubec – religiousness of traditional Slovak environment, Christian iconography).

Ten years ago, the Rings in Water project started as several stones hit experimentally into water. Now we know that we have produced lot of new energy and impulses to the traditional art and crafts. In addition, space for creativity and experiments has opened to visual artists and designers. Thus, connection between past and present has become stronger in a natural way. And, we will keep seeking to identify and support such connections.

Viera Kleinová