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вторник, 4 ноември 2014 г.

ARTISTIC and HISTORICAL TRADITIONS of BULGARIAN FELT WORKS

Author: Rayko Sefterski 

Published in the journal "The Fellowship" issue 1/1986


Between Bulgarian folk textile arts - decorative and ornamented fabrics, folk embroidery, tufted rugs and plain rugs, felt products form a separate independent group.

The preserved samples from Bulgarian felt products are from XVII, XVIIIth, XIX and early XX century, as some of them appear possessions of museum of the Rila Monastery, the Ethnographic Museum in Sofia and Plovdiv, old houses-museums in Koprivshtitsa, Vidin, Sliven, Elhovo and other, as well known are the large number of private possessions of the XIX and XX century. Many of them, especially carpets are unique works of Bulgarian folk textile art, not only in terms of technological specificity, their ornaments and monumental compositions, but also because of their size - 4 m length of 3.5 m width and up to 20 or more kilos of weight.

Bulgarian folk terminology for felt products specializes in according to their type. Most often felt are called "starobitno nyashto" ("ancient thing"), but felt the name in folk dialects is attested as a "plast (plust)", "plastina", "plas" and others. The earliest written record in the Old Bulgarian manuscripts refers to X - XI century. According to this so popular in the past was a felt blanket for riding horses bareback, known as "tegaltiya", "teltiya", "stelle" and other names. They were monochrome - white, yellow and gray, but often also as show some images in the icons from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, they were also richly ornamented. The earliest horse "stelle" is seen on a stone engraving of the IX century from the capital Preslav depicting horseman riding with a flag in hand.

The data for for the felt hats among the Bulgarians are too scarce. Only in the Rhodope Mountains in the distant past, the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, still felted so called hat "kyulaf" - in a shape of a truncated cone of a single-color gray-brown wool without periphery. The technology of these pieces of felt is still poorly studied.


The third largest group of felt products are felt "beddingsfor sleeping, monochrome - white, yellow, gray, or ornamented, according to local tradition. Every girl in her trousseau had to have at least one such bed covering, i.e. "marital - wedding felt" on which the newlyweds began to sleep on the day of the wedding. On such a felt on the obverse or reverse side and, except initials, names and dates are found symbolic and magical images clearly related to the wishes to the couple. Such signs are found on felts from all ethnographic regions in the oldest specimens of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Felt carpets vary in different sizes and ornamental decoration, designed exclusively to meet the floor in the salon of the house. In this regard, the greatest diversity have large felt carpets from Koprivshtitsa town of eighteenth and nineteenth century. Their richly ornamental and compositional diversity allows to be made comparative studies with other Bulgarian folk textile arts - plain woven carpets, tufted rugs, goat tufted rugs, rugs, ornamented fabrics, embroidery, and our other artistic products - carving, copper processing, ceramics, stone sculptures and other.



For production of felt products including carpets, which have the greatest material consumption, the main raw material are different qualities of sheep wool. Bulgarians as an agricultural and pastoral people in the past stand out among the other folks as one of the best sheep breeders in the Balkans. So the wool was not a problem for the production of any articles of felt. They used a wool of "spring" and "autumn" shearing and with different qualities, known in popular terms as "fleece", "trim", "badzhak", "erna" or "yarina" (fine wool from the first clipping of lambs) "noil" (waste by carding of fleece wool), "tabashka" (of slaughtered or dead sheep). Technological processing of the wool proceeds in a certain pattern of the raw material. The first step is washing of dirty wool ("serava vulna") by flooding with warm water to clean out organic fat in it, called. "ser". After that it dried and divided by qualities and intention. From the "fleece" - wool was meant for "wicks" and "stripes" on felt. This wool as is on the fleece, was painted in natural dyes, dyestuffs are received from a variety of plants, roots and more. This happened in large clay "pots", where the wool flooded it with cool water, placed the dyeing plants and "buried" pots in not burnt manure to stand for several days at a steady temperature. Colored wool for preparing by it "fuses" with different thickness of "cutting" and "coloring" of felt they combed and then carded or breaking by the "bow" by the master "drandar." "Erina" and "noil" types of wool were used for the middle layer of the felts, spreading evenly or made to "sliver" that ranks in width, once to a length on several layers, depending on the desired thickness of the felt.

Making felt itself is called "valyane" (that means "rolling) - "valyme plust"means "we are rolling felt". For this purpose they used the most simple facilities constructing "bedstead" by the boards called "oturak", which placed on four stakes or on the "sled". This happened out of the yard in good weather, most often in late summer when it is hot and sunny to be able the felt to dry.



Among the Bulgarians were known two ways to produce ornate blankets and carpets of felt. The first method of decoration is called "negative" order of decoration. By twisted wool in the form of wicks they lined on the old rug frames of the "curbs" and then "the field" - the middle with different "patterns" on it. The outlined contours on the rug usually initiated spreading of thin layer with a wool - this was the background of felt. Over this layer followed "filling", i.e. thick layer and above another - upper, thin wool layer to hold the felt. Thus arranged, the wool gently sprayed over with a broom and began even "wrap" on the rug and tightness. In some parts in the middle they were placed the a wooden rod, on which tightly wrapped the rug with wool design. The resulting "roll" evenly wrapped with rope to not get displaced "patterns" and layers. The bundle placed on the bedstead flooded with enough hot water to soake deeply and evenly and to obtain a sufficiently high temperature and humidity, and internal "brew." Two, three or four people lined up next to each other, began to "beat" with hands and elbows prepared roll continuously from end to end on the bedstead. Then again flooded with hot water and continued rolling. This was repeated four, five or more times over a period of 4 to 8 hours. Then the felt was left equal to dry and "patching", if there were holes.


The second way of felting carpets by Bulgarians is called "positive" ornamentation. This technology is carried out in two stages of making, as opposed to the manner described above. First was placing the wool - even, in three stages: external, middle and front layer. Follows wrapping and tying the roll evenly with the rope in order to obtain a uniform density. Then roll flooded thoroughly with hot water. To be soaked well and brew the wool. Then begins the continuous rolling and tapping with hands and swatters, again flooding with hot water, again and repeat continuous rotation until get prefelt (semifelt) as a basis. On the resulting prefelt base they began "the cutting" (making the design) to order the "patterns", outlining the contours of the curbs - one, two, three or four frames, which further formed various ornaments and compositions. And finally can be built central composition, depending on the technique of the felt master. Once decorated, the whole felt composition is covered with a "sacking"("kenevir") for not to unsettle the ornaments. The felt piece wrapped again in roll, tied with a rope coil and gone on continuously flooding with hot water, rolling and tapping for 4-5 hours.




In terms of colors, the Bulgarian felt works can be grouped into the following types: Monochrome (different colors - white, gray, yellow, but mainly based on the natural color of the wool); Bi-color - monochromatic background (white, gray or melange) and contrast design - black, white or grey; Multicolored - monochromatic background (white, yellow, brown or gray) and multicolored ornamental decoration. Multicolored compositions often contain four to ten shades of warm and cold colors associated differently in a compositions of felt carpets. The greatest wealth in this respect are Koprivshtitsa felts (plasti) from eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Among them are extremely valuable artistic specimens preserved until now in museum collections.

Bulgarian felt products of XVII - XX century, with their rich and varied ornaments and compositional decisions are part of Bulgarian traditional folk crafts. They need to study and attempt to recreate their art in terms of modern life and needs.


***

Notes: 
  • The photos at this article are from museums in Koprivshtitsa and Vidin selected by Svetlana Kostova - LAnAArt and photos from her archive.
  • The original text is in Bulgarian language. It is published here in my blog: http://svetlanaarts.blogspot.com/2014/10/blog-post_31.html 
  • This English translation is non-professional and made by Svetlana Kostova to facilitate studies of her colleagues - textile and felt artists, also art critics, ethnographers etc.

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