A Note on the Folk-Art of Cassubia

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  • A Note on the Folk-Art of CassubiaAuthor(s): Br. Socha-BorzestowskiSource: Folklore, Vol. 81, No. 3 (Autumn, 1970), pp. 195-197Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of Folklore Enterprises, Ltd.Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1259266 .Accessed: 10/06/2014 23:02

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  • A Note on the Folk-Art of Cassubia


    THE area of the Voivody of Gdanisk is rich in examples of tradi- tional Cassubian folk-culture. The folk-artists of this forest-and- lake country have obviously taken inspiration from the beautiful colours of their environment. The blues, browns, and greens of nature are repeated in their work. Even the casual visitor could not fail to notice also the use of the same designs on folk-furniture as occur on certain famous buildings in Gdafisk; the expert would

    probably notice the occasional Baroque or Rococo theme borrowed by the folk-artist. Any tourist, layman or expert, could almost cer- tainly acquire a beautiful and unique souvenir of his holiday- some elaborate embroidery, an engraved horn snuff-box, or an unusual piece of pottery.

    Folk-art of this area is remarkable for the variety of media which it employs. In ceramics the most notable productions are by the members of the same family, the Necels, whose work has been uninterrupted throughout nine generations. The chief colours are brilliant blue, soft brown, and green, and the potters employ seven conventional decorative themes hallowed by custom: the lily; the lilac; the large and small tulip; the starfish; fish scales; and the Cassubian garland. The eldest of the family, Leon, has been awarded many trophies for his creations.

    Finely-wrought embroidery is beloved of the Cassubs, and is characterised by the employment of gold thread, especially in ornamental bonnets, and the bodices of traditional regional attire. Cassubian needlework has undoubtedly been influenced by Southern European and even Turkish techniques, and is to some extent derivative, but nevertheless it exhibits an individual folk- quality. One type of embroidery makes use of seven colours, while another style in the Vistula area is done in white thread only, an ancient fashion now revived which bears witness to the lively interest of Cassubian needlewomen in traditional work. The


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    performers most worthy of note in this sphere are Zofia and Jadwiga Ptach of Zukowo, Helen Grulkowska of Czarlino, and Wladyslawa Szlubach of Wdzydze.

    Not many examples of the traditional cupboards and kitchen sideboards survive, but at Kartuzy-in the Cassubian Museum- one may see some which, though Baroque in inspiration are nevertheless restrained and simple in execution.

    Near Kartuzy and Koscierzyna there are amber mines and the extraction of the 'gold of the north', as it is nicknamed, has given rise to the most unusual craft of carving in amber. In this medium Jerzy Sankiewicz, Roscislaw Skrzydlowski, and Stanislaw Karc- zewski have done admirable work, the first-named having pro- duced a most beautiful model of an ancient sailing-ship.

    Unlike the peoples of other districts, the Cassubs have been for generations noted for their creation of small horn snuff-boxes exquisitely engraved. The experience of such a period has brought a high level of technical skill and artistic taste. The outstanding engravers are Franciszek Meyer of Mirachowo and Pawel Lange who lives at Wejherowo.

    Perhaps the most curious manifestation of Cassub folk-art is to be found in the age-old craft of pine-root pleating. Artists like the Knut family (mother and son) of Wdzydze, and the Lubnian Alexander Bruski, have formed even such articles as cups and flasks by pleating very closely the strands of this fibrous material, however unpromising it may seem. The texture of the finished articles resembles that of chain mail.

    Painting on glass is almost a preserve of the Cassubian district. The glass is a covering for religious paintings, and the ornamenta- tion takes the form of floral garlands most delicately executed around the border. At Otomino lives Alojzy Bendyk, the chief practitioner of this art.

    The last folk-art form to be mentioned in this short survey of the work of the Cassubs is paper-cutting. Here, too, the traditional motifs of tulip and lily are found, but mingled with hearts, triangles, crosses and the forms of birds and animals. The work is usually executed in monochrome, and the artistic balance between colour and space in the cut-outs is most pleasing.

    These are some of the more interesting manifestations of the Cassubian cultural spirit, a sturdy, compact, and independent one.


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    Ending this summary of Cassubian folk-lore, one must quote the works of Bernard Chrzanowski, that great admirer of the Pomeranian people and the moving spirit behind the popularisa- tion of the Baltic Coast of Poland as a beauty-spot. His deep love for the northern part of this Slav territory prompts him to say: 'So the Cassub as a man is revealed to us. We come to know what his work-strained eyes liked to look at in moments of rest and days of recreation, what nourished and gave joy to his eyes. And we notice that what a Cassub considered beautiful was indeed so, and is so for us, too.'


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    Article Contentsp. 195p. 196p. 197

    Issue Table of ContentsFolklore, Vol. 81, No. 3 (Autumn, 1970), pp. 161-240Front Matter [pp. 237-238]Mime, Mask and Satire in Kolam of Ceylon [pp. 161-176]The Teind to Hell in "Tam Lin" [pp. 177-181]A Classical Foundation-Legend from Newfoundland [pp. 182-184]The Finnsburg Raven and "Gurinc Astah" [pp. 185-194]A Note on the Folk-Art of Cassubia [pp. 195-197]Fire-Walking at San Pedro Manrique, Spain [pp. 198-214]The Wren Hunt Song [pp. 215-218]ObituaryProfessor John Mavrogordato [p. 219]

    Letters to the EditorComment on "The Bethrothal and Marriage Customs of the Hebrews during the Time of Christ" [p. 220]The Irish Charms in Northern England [pp. 220-221]Tatworth Candle Auction [p. 221]

    ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 222-223]Review: untitled [pp. 223-225]Review: untitled [pp. 225-227]Review: untitled [p. 227]Review: untitled [p. 228]Review: untitled [pp. 228-229]Review: untitled [pp. 229-230]Review: untitled [p. 231]Review: untitled [pp. 231-233]Review: untitled [pp. 233-235]Review: untitled [p. 235]Review: untitled [p. 236]

    Society Notes [p. 239]Society Meeting [p. 240]Back Matter


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