7 November 2016

Giving tribute to lacemakers – notes from International Bobbin Lacemaking Festival in Bobowa, Southern Poland

The beginning of October is a festive time for the lacemaking community of Bobowa in Southern Poland. Since 2000, delegates from European countries have been participating in the International Bobbin Lacemaking Festival organized by the local community. The event’s role is to celebrate lacemaking heritage. The festival exposes the diversity of patterns and skills, whilst for the Bobowa’s community is a distinctive moment of being recognized nationally and internationally linking lacemaking traditions through historical times and across geographical regions.

Czech stall with motifs from fashion show 'Dream of the Sea' by Prague lacemakers. Photo by Beatra Jarema. 
Lacemaking, historically, was considered as a manual skilled job, linked with a cottage industry, and referring to the social class of workers: artisans, who were from rural areas working in a particular place as a collective, linked by the kinship bounds and belonging to particular region, with the generational transfer of labour skills and tools. This constructed tradition of labour in the region can be situated in the broader term of regional ‘heritage,’ where work obtained a particular timeless value, because of the persistence of labour forms, tools and materials, techniques and particular skills; due to their continuing work, women, who immersed lacemaking into their collective and individual biographies, allowed for the natural transfer of the skills into their environment. The festival is a result of historical processes commemorating women’s work, preserving regional heritage constructed by women’s labour and linking local craftswomen with other lacemaking communities.

Jadwiga Wegorek from Cracow, Poland, with her award winning lace with at the Bobowa festival.  Photo by Beatra Jarema.
The 17th International Bobbin Lacemaking Festival was held on the 6th - 9th October, Poland, gathering 19 groups from 14 countries: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, England, Estonia, France, Holland, Hungary, Russia, Slovakia, which represented their laces and lacemaking skills on the stalls. The Programme included lacemaking fashion shows by Czech and Polish designers, lacemaking workshops for beginners, exhibition by Prague lacemakers Iva Proškova and Jitka Egermaierova von Lindern, and a lecture on laces in fine arts by textiles curator, Joanna Sielska. All events were underpinned by contemporary folk music from local bands, which emphasized the rural character of Bobowa’s town and rural origins of Bobowa’s lacemaking industry in the region. A few years ago the village of Bobowa became a small town with great ambition to be a centre for Uplands craft culture, meanwhile renovating its Post-Socialist landscape, providing modern investments and preserving local multicultural heritage expressed by architectural forms: mansion houses, churches and a synagogue. The festival is a great occasion for visitors to learn about the Uplands past and present, whilst also to understand the status of contemporary bobbin lace in the broader international context. Symbolic value of women’s work expressed by a monument of the lacemaker situated in Bobowa’s Main Square could also be studied in relation to the works awarded during the National Lacemaking Contest where Slavonic, Czech and Free Style laces demonstrated both dialogue with tradition and transformations of skills into modern forms.  

Examples of lace from the UK at the Bobowa festival Photo by Beatra Jarema. 
Great Britain’s lacemaking heritage was represented by lacemakers from Kent in England exhibiting originally designed or reconstructed laces in torchon, Bedfordshire lace and Buck point lace styles.

By Anna Sznajder

Images: Beata Jarema

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