By Marina Shumilo
In the past, women sewed clothes for their family members. Following tradition, on marrying, a lady presented her fiance not only with a dowry but with hand-woven linen, as proof of her housekeeping skills. In the past, rushniks — long pieces of table linen — were especially carefully embroidered (bearing the motifs also common for clothes). Each symbol had its own special meaning.
The tradition remains today, with bread and salt for guests presented on a rushnik. With the development of industrial manufacturing, handicrafts lost their key significance but many Belarusian families still have some hand-made articles from the past — although most now reside in museums. Our progressive life has enabled each shop to offer a rich diversity of products, to suit any taste. However, many people prefer original and unique articles which industrial lines can hardly produce.
Unsurprisingly, hand-made products are now quite common among ordinary Belarusians. “These articles are most popular among those who wish to distinguish themselves from others,” explains Minsk handicraft master, Olga Kotova. “These people value style most of all.” For several years, Olga has been making dolls and interior decorations; in the course of time, her hobby has become more serious. “I took on handicrafts at school, attending different lessons,” she explains. “I became even more interested during my University studies as a teacher-artist. I then began making artistic dolls and used the theme for my diploma project; moreover, I wrote a Master’s degree paper on this topic. At present, I teach handicrafts at the National Centre of Artistic Creativity for Children and Youth.”
Actually, handicraft masters focus not only on dolls and interior decorations. Notebooks and postcards are extremely popular now, most often following the technique of scrap booking (pasting newspaper cutting, drawings, shells and, even, flowers). Special collections of twists are made for watch lovers but decorations prevail. Among the masters specialising in making decorations is Olga Glushakova, from Gomel. She can easily transform Czech glass or felted cloth into wonderful flowers.
“I believe that only those items made from the heart are popular, as they combine their author’s individuality and energy. If such an aspect is important for the buyer, they’ll prefer hand-made items to anything else.” As regards inspiration, some artists are guided by their mood. “Inspiration comes from my soul and disappears if I feel anxious,” explains Ms. Glushakova. “It’s impossible to invent something by force or at the snap or your fingers. All my articles are made with love,” she smiles.
Ms. Kotova, in turn, is inspired by nature. “My inspiration can arrive from an accidental composition of shadows on the ground or from an unusual tree leaf. These images give me ideas,” she says. Of course, such artists usually dream of having their own shop — small but bearing its own name. Sadly, few exist, although their rarity makes them even more popular. “Of course, the Internet helps promote hand-made products. I began my career by creating a blog and a social network group,” says Ms. Kotova.
Craftsmen and women can also show their talent at handicraft fairs, which are regularly held in Minsk. These gather masters and buyers, with many attending master classes — offered free of charge. The most popular are scrap booking, polymer clay moulding and embroidery with ribbons. Of course, it’s hardly possible to become a true professional after a single lesson but the fundamentals of a craft can be easily mastered. “I seem to combine my own creativity with fulfilling orders and lecturing quite successfully,” notes Ms. Kotova. “I run lessons at the National Centre of Artistic Creativity for Children and Youth, while offering master classes there.”
Each artist’s style is unique, creating hand-made items which are understandably popular and loved by their owners.