Eastern European Folk Art Patterns


Hello everyone! Today this post is both a part of a school assignment and a part of my own personal research for my own work and knowledge. I’ll be discussing why and how I use eastern European folk art as well as a wee bit of the history of eastern European folk art.


Recently I read Helen Hajnoczky’s Magyaázni poetry book. The book captures comforting Canadian poetry paired with her use of visual poems that were Helen’s own Hungarian folk art motifs (also note that the written poetry is based on her Hungarian influenced childhood and life in Canada). If you have followed me for a while (say almost a year ago) I mentioned a Russian folk art patterned scarf that I made for my fibres painting and dyeing class. I made it because I was still deep into my own Russian revolution obsession and through researching Russian arts I found the folk art patterns. I was rather taken with them so I decided to incorporate the motifs into my work.


The way the Russian pattern comes full circle to the Hungarian folk art is that the two styles look very similar, mostly likely because they are geographically close and a part of that Eastern Europe sector. The same goes for if you research Polish folk art and Ukrainian folk art. Also the same can be said for all overlap visually.


So I relate Helen’s work to my work in the folk art area though I am not truly a descendant of eastern European culture, I am a big mix of different types of European with some Cree mixed in. Very fourth generation Canadian I would say. But there is Ukrainian in there somewhere! So there’s were the folk art can come in. But I wouldn’t say that my use of it is so much cultural it is more of a decorative interest. In my opinion eastern European folk art is just the most fantastic folk art there is and that’s why I use it.


So far my use of it has just been on silk bokashi waxed scarves. I draw up the pattern, transfer it to the fabric, wax it, dye it, remove the wax and lastly do a hand-rolled hem for the edges. I’ve done two scarves; the first was definitely a first go as it had quite a bit of character.


Then the second scarf turned out much better even with a more complex pattern being waxed on. Though it may be better because I used emulsified wax which can be washed off with warm water or just scraped off if you work quick enough (the first wax was a mix of waxes you have to melt and use hot, I believe there was a mix of beeswax and soy wax and once it touches the fabric you can’t get it off unless you iron, steam and dry-clean the fabric so no pressure for beginners)! I plan on using this method for what I’m just calling the Russian shirt this semester for my advanced cloth painting and dyeing class.

I am also currently working on an embroidery piece. Some hand-made paper dyed with logwood made by yours truly with a bit of a different pattern but non-the-less eastern European.


With all these motifs going around I dipped into a small bit of research on the motifs. I researched the Russian ones over the Hungarian works as it relates to my work more. The complexity of my designs lean more towards the simpler spectrum of the motifs. So mine aligns with the Gorodets paintings. Gorodets is a town in the Nizhni Novgorod region of Russia. There are other styles of painting like Khokloma but it has much finer detail and comes from a different Region in Russia. Most of the names of the styles of motifs come from the region they originated from.


I also researched traditional Russian Embroidery and found that my motifs do not truly resemble it. That embroidery is much more repetitive patterned based and/or figure based both of which I wouldn’t describe my work as. So mine resemble Russian painting more. This intrigued me so I also looked up Hungarian embroidery and the motifs varied a lot from the Russian ones and resembled satin stitched version of my work.


So that’s a bit of interesting information, basic but interesting and hopefully one day I will be given the opportunity to do a full research on the topic of Eastern European folk arts. And you can read about the different types of Russian folk arts here. But this will have to suffice today. So until next time.



L.C. Cariou


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