2007
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Basket-making in Slovakia

by Peter Juriga

“Opálky”, oval baskets made by all contemporary basket makers Sixteen years ago, I went to the central Slovakia to find some basket makers. Back then, I came across several pensioners practising the craft. Several months ago, I went to conduct a research for ÚĽUV in the central Slovakia again. My task was to examine and record the situation in the Podpoľanie region and surrounding area (the southern part of central Slovakia). Finally, I found and visited 9 basket makers – they all were males – the basket-making trade is a male thing now.

Almost every man in the Podpoľanie region made “opálky”, ball-shaped or oval baskets. All contemporary basket makers in the region make this basket type, too. Hardly a single or two basket makers can make standard conical baskets with round bottoms.

Milan Fraňo of Rykynčice makes baskets in winter, when farming works are finished. He grows willows around his farm. He puts plants into wet soil that nobody uses. Fraňo learnt to make opálky from his grandfather, conical round and oval willow baskets from an old Gypsy man and square baskets from an old basket maker.

Many diverse adult education centres, civil associations or cultural institutions have their web pages. Some of them do not work anymore. Disappointment comes after initial enthusiasm. It is the case of the project of a basket-making workshop in Kokava nad Rimavicou. The project was designed to find new jobs for local people. When financial support from the state ceased to come, the project failed. My opinion is that the project failed not because of insufficient financial support. I think that the production range did not respect market requirements - the production of simple designs. They based their production range on top standard basket-making tradition which promising Gypsy craftsmen quickly learnt. Unfortunately, the production range followed fifty-year old design patterns. Besides, producers from Hungary and Poland offer similar products at the Slovak market, the Polish ones under very low prices.

However, I met a basket maker, an old age pensioner and self-made man, who produces simple products from green wicker and he succeeded. Basket-making craft survives due to the fact that you do not need to register a trade, conduct bookkeeping, have a cash register and that you have free stands at fairs and markets for presenting folk art production.

Basket makers in the researched region make baskets because they like to do it and because the baskets are necessary. However, they do it only after work, during their free time.

The range of basket types refers to the skills of their makers as well as demand and taste of people of our time. Mushroom pickers, gardeners, stock breeders need baskets. They are good next to a fireplace or as an interior decoration.

I think that the basket-making craft may survive when cheap “tailor-made” baskets are produced, particularly the types not covered by the Poles, Ukrainians and Asians.

Or, furniture and utility items often use wicker. Designers, basket makers and producers of wicker and wooden furniture may join forces to put Slovakia back at the map of basket-making and furniture production.

 


Further articles magazine Craft, Art, Design 01/2007:

 

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