Art Saturday: Tradition Is Artwork in Croatian Design
Traditional celebrations are a vital part of the Croatian life and of its history. There are many villages and districts, all having their own families with backgrounds that make the present work for the Croatian people – back into their history and their ties with their own and neighboring family lines. One of the important ways that each family participates is in the designs of the costumes for celebrations.
In Dubrovnik, I managed to stop into a small shop in the old town, a walled city, and find a family that has been showing and marketing the costumes from its own history over many generations. The designs are worked into materials with intricate embroidery, then fashioned into a costume that works inside a history replete with the traditional dress. Lena Ba?an is the present day owner, and her husband was working there the day I stopped in. He explained to me about the different designs, and the work involved.
Over the centuries, the work is one passed down from mother to daughter, to decorate the people of their country for the ceremonies that draw them together and give them the feeling of community Croatia shows strongly. The designs of this particular shop originate in Konavle, a district in the countryside.
There are several basic patterns used generally, of a degree of difficulty that takes about ten years to master, and they are all worked into the costumes in varying ways. They are designs the staff and associates that embroider for this shop call the cat foot print, then the vortex, followed by the less difficult four leaf clover, forks, pine tree branch, octopus, butterfly, mountains – (here my notes are not clear so am guessing on this name), rhombus, and machine-like gears. Of course, these are translations from a idiomatic Croatian of the region, and aren’t exactly the words they use in their business.
In the Ethnographic Museum on a hillside of Dubrovnik’s walled city there are several items of original clothing from various areas displayed. Fortunately, several from Konavle are there, and show even more historic designs from this background. Photographs in the museum show some of the large communal homes and typical jewelry that would be worn with the embroidered dress wear.
The art works of their tradition made a display at ceremonial events that justified the long hours they worked to create them. An essential part of Croatian history has come down through the ages from the busy fingers that worked it.