the kalocsa folk art

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HISTORY

Girls and women embroidering personal garments with intricate motives has a long tradition in Kalocsa. In the 19th century, this became an industry. The better off and aspiring Hungarian middle classes,. similarly to others in Europe, wanted nicely decorated garments and linen for themselves and their homes. Embroidery, cutwork and appliqué were favourite ways of making every-day garments more appealing. In the towns and villages around Kalocsa, the local folk motives were favoured. And so, from the 19th century, embroidery became a traditional employment for women in the Kalocsa region. At the beginning, carved wooden stamps were used to press the pattern onto linen, and a specialist pattern printing factory opened in Kalocsa around 1860. Later, the women themselves drew the motives and patterns onto the material, which by this time included fine linen and cotton. After 1890, the cutwork in the patterns was increasingly filled in by flat stitches. From 1912, yarns with fast colours became available, and Kalocsa embroidery started becaming colourful after the 1st World War. With the availability of sawing machines, a separate industry of machine embroidery developed in Kalocsa which is known as Richelieu embroidery. This form of embroidery makes the surface of the material resembling lace. The fame of the colourful Kalocsa embroidery was greatly elevated by the work of the well known local folk artist, Mrs Kovacs, Ilus Kiraly.


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COLOUR SCHEME

Traditional Kalocsa embroidery (often cutwork) on bed and table linen and undergarments was originally white because fast coloured yarns were not available. Coloured wool yarns were occasionally sawn onto outer garments, using red-blue and black yarns. These old embroideries age into green because of the vegetable origin of the colouring agents. From the early part of the 20th century, Kalocsa embroidery became colourful. There are peculiar local names for the colours used - "tulip", "flame", "wine", "goose green", "envy yellow", "swallow-neck red" "dove blue" and "velvet blue", to mention but a few. The colours used on embroidered garments were influenced by the age of the wearer. The most decorative and colourful garment was the traditional wedding dress. Garments for elder women were less decorated and the colours darker. Garments coloured with blue lilac and green yarns were the sign of mourning. Later a stylistic break occurred in the colour scheme to achieve a more realistic representation of nature, but the traditional colour scheme was not harmonised with the new colours. Currently six major colours are used in two tones, purple and red, pink and shocking pink, orange and lemon, blue and deep blue, lilac and its deeper shade, and green and dark green. The colour pairs are often used to complement each other. For instance, decorative leaves are often halved in the middle and embroidered with complementary colours of green. Embroidery threads are simple traditional spun yarns, and textured modern yarns are not in keeping with the Kalocsa tradition.


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MOTIVES

The embroidery patterns followed the traditional motives originally used to decorate walls. The patterns then and now aim to represent nature. Flower motives were widespread, representing the flowers of the meadows and the gardens. Images of tulips, lilies, lilac, blue bells, carnations, roses, forget-me-not, pansies were mixed with berries and the famous Kalocsa paprika. Other popular motives included rosemary, bunches of grapes, poppies, a heart, wheat and even fish. The flowers were arranged on the material in rows, circles, wreaths or bunches. Sometimes, the whole garment was covered with flower patterns, such as in the case of traditional decorative aprons and waistcoats. The image of larger flowers, such as roses, carnations, and the leaves were drawn in two halves and the two halves were embroidered with complimentary colours.

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APPLICATION

Embroidered decoration was used on bed linen - at the edges of sheets and pillowcases, on table linen - table cloth, napkins and table runners, and on handkerchiefs. These were parts of a girl's traditional dowry. Women's upper garments were also richly embroidered, such as aprons, the shoulder strips and collars of blouses, waistcoats and various head scarves and decorative shawls and kerchiefs. The sleeves, cuffs and collars of men's shirts were also embroidered.

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