Folk art

Tautodailininkai - Pamario krašto meistrai

Written by Algis Kuklys   

The land of Žemaitija is rich in talents. There are plenty of them in the seaside, too. It‘s impossible to imagine, that vital tradition of folk art, which comes from the dead of centuries, could rupture. Of course, art critics, who are interested in modern folk art, wouldn‘t be great optimists. They would have some doubts about the artistic level of modern folk art, because crafts not always get on well with high artistic value. It depends on different reasons. It seems to me, time will be the most objective judge. At present there is no doubt about creative work of experienced wood carvers. I mean various sculptures, chapel-poles and crosses, which were made by Adolfas Valuckis, Anicetas and Raimundas Puškoriai, and Petras Balsys. Two younger folk artists Algirdas Ridikas and Egidijus Joneckis follow their example. 
It is interesting, that there are some folk artists‘ families in our land. For example, husband and wife are engaged in pottery (together or individually). They are Janina and Jonas Vilimai, Rita and Egidijus Vilimai, Laima and Remigijus Juciai. Some of them create various works of metal (Irena and Dainius Šarkai) or works of amber (Jadvyga and Mindaugas Bareikos). We should be surprised by these creative "unifications", because there are some more of them. Today a lot of folk artists begin their own creative way when they graduate from Art colleges in Telšiai and Kaunas, but their creation is not worse than "professionals". 
Modern folk artists are not like craftsmen of prewar Lithuania. They are educated and masters of different techniques. With pleasure I notice, that some persons emphasize bright regional dependency. They are the machinist Valdas Ančeris and Kostas Pensis, who makes "kurėnas", Lithuanian sailboats. We can‘t imagine our seaside without amber, so amber masters should be numbered here, too. 
Our folk artists create new folk art and form its future. But it would be great, if they could stand up against the delusiveness of mass culture and could be loyal to their own creative individuality and Lithuanian folk art traditions. 
      We can‘t imagine our folk fairs and holidays without national sashes. They are the oldest of all Lithuanian cloths. Particoloured national sashes are spread greatly. They were woven by women and some men.
      A lot of old traditions are related to national sashes. It is interesting to know,that miniature tools of making twisted woven sashes were found in Kretinga Jazdai cemetary (XI- XII century).
 The ornamental pattern of Lithuanian woven sashes is one of the most archaic. It is usually made of geometrical forms and it is close to metal works. National sashes were woven from the oldest times. They are woven nowadays, too. Woven sashes are received as presents for special occasions.
Each region of Lithuania had its own ornamental pattern of woven sashes. At the end of XIX century and the beginning of XX century typical national sashes were made of cotton (base) and woolen (pattern) thread. Household linen or woolen raw material was used for earlier created sashes.At the end of XVIII century and the beginning of XIX century smart sashes were made of gold and silver metallic thread. (read the book "Lithuanian sashes", 2001 by T.Jurkuvienė for more information).
Of course, at present folk artists don‘t follow exactly the ancient ornamental pattern. There are anniversary sashes with special inscriptions. Folk artists create new combinations of colours, but they are loyal to common decorative composition of ornaments. 
Traditions of wood carving come from the oldest times. They are related to Lithuanian mode of life and also Pagan culture and new influence of Christianity. Žemaitija region preserved these traditions most of all, because it adopted Christianity later.
 A lot of old wood carving examples can‘t be found at present, but in prewar Lithuania all the villages were decorated by crosses, shrines or chappels, which were made by talented folk artists. 
It is symbolical, that one of these folk artists, Anicetas Puškorius, together with his colleagues,founded Lithuanian National Art Society in 1966 and was the first leader of it. His sons Raimundas, Linas and Januaris followed his example. 
Plenty of talented wood artists (B. Žymantas, A.Kvasas, J. and F. Lukauskai, A.Viluckis, etc.) lived in Kretinga district. So in autumn 1972 the first republican holiday of wood carvers was held in Kretinga. It was in public eye.
In Soviet times the system of folk art, like an ideology of that time, was created. But just few folk artists toadied to political ideology of that time. Others continued traditions of national art and participated in republican or union exhibitions and creative camps of wood carvers (Ablinga memorial, M.K.Čiurlionis way, etc.). They also created various sculptures or souvenirs. The best works of folk artists are kept in museums of Lithuania and foreign countries.
During the revival movement period Folk Master Society was renamed as Folk Artist Association. It united about 3000 members. It is interesting, that 1200 folk artists lived and created in Žemaitija in 1992. At present there are 500 folk artists. It‘s a great pleasure to see folk artists of Žemaitija (seaside) taking part in creative camps (semminars) of wood carvers in the USA, the EU and countries in the Far East.Wood carver and sport entusiast Raimundas Puškorius is one of these active folk artists.
Although there are plenty of wood carvers in Žemaitija, potters have to be mentioned, too. They make various pots, vases, sets and create playful souvenirs, like whistles, candlesticks, money - boxes and small sculptures. 
Origin of pottery (especially black ceramics) comes from the oldest times. It is proved by archaeological finds.
At present not all of potters are amateurs. A lot of them are graduates from Colleges of Applied Arts in Kaunas and Telšiai. Their artistic and technological level is very high. 
It‘s a pity, tourists sometimes are attracted by low artistic level souvenirs, such as naked witches- money-boxes, etc. The jewellery of amber, nonferrous metal and other materials has a special place in seaside folk artists creation. 
Archaelogists are surprised by our ancient brass, amber or expensive metals jewellery. It‘s artistic and technological level is very high (read the book "Ancient Lithuanian jewellery" 1958, for more information).
Modern folk artists create various amber handicrafts (necklaces, brooches, etc.) or small works of nonferrous metals, such as candlesticks, boxes, rings and earrings.
     Crosses, decorative fences, installation and trim of fireplaces are valuable and artistic works of blacksmith (read the book "Lithuanian iron crosses" by Č.Kontrimas for more information).
     There are lots of folk artists – painters in the seaside. V.Rimkus‘ paintings are well known in Klaipėda. J.Račkauskas is famous for his watercolours in Kretinga. A.Sereika is well known in Kretinga for his landscape drawings and natiurmorts. Paintings, different linen cloths, jewellery, wood carvings are always exhibited at salon "Marginiai" in Klaipėda.
     Lithuanian folk art has impressive traditions and our inventive folk artists have been working hard. They not just create handicrafts for sale, but also take part in creative camps and exhibitions
"What should expect our folk artists in encirclement of globalization, if a lot of mass culture products get into market?" - this question is very actual. The future will show us what is valuable and what doesn‘t have value.