Just a quickie to let you know why I’ve chosen to go to Slovakia with the Making Ways funding I’ve been fortunate enough to have been awarded. You may have noticed that I often work with wire – usually intuitively, but I’ve recently been exploring other ways of working with it, and one of my first ports of call is Slovakia to look into tinkering.
Tinkering has become known as repairing or playing with things in a casual way, but it actually has a history as a specific Slovak craft, originating in the 18th and 19th centuries, in poor and mountainous regions in North West Slovakia. It did indeed begin as reparative work with wire, e.g. mending broken ceramic vessels and other kitchenware. Tinkers travelled door-to-door with their ‘studios’ on their backs, then all over Europe and Russia and into the U.S., as demand for their craft grew. Their repair work morphed into handmade objects such as birdcages and other functional products, and also items reflecting decorative lace patterns of local folk art. As it grew further, individual entrepreneurs moved into workshops, and eventually factory mass production led to the handmade craft’s demise.
The tinker’s craft is not so much practised today but for a few descendants of original tinkers or loyal supporters, who have channeled the craft into art and sculpture. In Slovakia, there are organisations committed to craft protection, such as The Centre for Folk Art Production (ÚL'UV), and a number of artists adapting the use of wire within contemporary art. As well as visiting the Povazie Museum in Zilina in North West Slovakia, where there is a unique exhibition of art of the tinker’s craft, I will be infiltrating the contemporary wire art scene of Slovakia’s capital, Bratislava. I’ll let you know how I get on.
I'm afraid I can't credit the googled image above as I can't find the information in English, but I suspect it's one of the exhibits at the Povazie Museum.