Friday, November 30, 2012

An Unexpected Surprise

I hope you are not tired of my trip yet, I still have quite a few photos left (and a few more stories to tell too.)

My purpose for this trip was to learn more about Hövej  embroidery, but thanks to my friend Elisabeth, we did so much more!  After visiting the museum in Csorna (see yesterday's post) we traveled to smaller village of Bogyozló where we met a man by the name of Jenö Pinter.  He was a delightful man and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to meet him.

Mr. Pinter is also a Master of Folk Art - for wood carving. Like Mrs. Szigethy, he has dedicated his entire life to this art form.  It is his passion.  He has carved many beautiful wood pieces in his lifetime, including pieces of furniture like the ones below:

He also enjoys carving statues:

He even carved this monument which is standing in the center of the village:

While visiting him, we had a chance to go out back to his workshop and he demonstrated a little bit for me.  he even let me try it a little bit!

Aside from the fact that he was a very friendly and gracious host and it was very interesting to see many of his wood carvings, why was it important for me to meet him?  Mr. Pinter made most of the furniture pieces in Mrs. Szigethy's exhibit.  Would you like to take a second look?

Such talent!  What an unexpected surprise to be able to meet with another of Hungary's masters!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Museum at Csorna

My friend Chris asked yesterday if my jet lag was getting better; she noticed that each day I was posting a little bit later than the day before!  It is true!  The first two mornings that I was home, I woke up during the middle of the night and could not go back to sleep.  The third morning was better; I still woke up early but a little later than before, and yesterday, I finally felt like I was fully adjusted back to my normal time zone.

Today I am going to take you to the city of Csorna; it's about 23 kilometers (30 minute drive) from Hövej.  My friend Elisabeth wanted me to visit the museum in Csorna for two reasons: 1) it would provide me with some insight into what life was like in this area during the time my great-grandfather lived here and 2) there were some beautiful embroidery pieces on display at the museum.  I'm not one to turn down an opportunity, so off we went!

The museum is housed in the building which belongs to the monks of Norbertine Abbey.  Sadly, I did not remember to take a picture of the building, but you can google it if you are interested.  The abbey was founded in Csorna in 1180.  In 1950 the communists took over the monastery; after the fall of communism, the monks returned.  There is a school on the site, and of course, this museum occupies a small part of the complex.

There were many, many interesting things in the museum - I'm only going to share a few things that I enjoyed seeing and that I think might be interesting to you.

One of the first things we saw was this framed piece of Hövej embroidery - beautiful (and very old.)

There was a display depicting "ordinary people" they would have typically been farmers, from the 1850 or so timeframe,  Here they are in their folk costumes. (I am partial to the blue dress displayed.  This fabric is very popular in Burgenland, Austria and in this part of Hungary.  It's called "Indigo Printing" - you can read more about it here if you are interested.)

Another traditional costume and trunks filled with embroidered linens, clothing, etc.  The trunks were passed on within families.  Etched in the lid of the trunks were important dates to the family (birth dates, weddings, etc.)

There were many old pieces of furniture in the museum, each was beautiful painted:

This was an example of the tailor shop at this time in history.  I had to take this photo, because my great-grandfather was a tailor!  (Maybe this explains my interest in needlework?)

And of course, the blue fabric again:

Look at the embroidery on these scarfs which would be worn when dressed in folk costume.  There are also some head pieces in the first photo:

This particular piece is done with Hövej embroidery:

This one too:

There were many interesting things at the museum!  I hope you will come back tomorrow.  I have a special treat for you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Learning from the Master

I was given my first piece of Hövej embroidery back in 1997.  I didn't know where it had come from or what kind of embroidery it was, I just thought it was beautiful.  Over the next several years my mother and I collected several more pieces and eventually we learned that these beautiful pieces were handmade in Hövej.

Earlier this year, I wrote an article for Ellen Chester's newsletter, With My Needle and Pen, and decided at that time to go searching for some information on Hövej embroidery on the internet.  I came across a website that I had not seen before - Mrs. Szigethy's website.  Since it was written in English, I took a chance and hit the "contact us" button in pursuit of learning more.  Mrs. Szigethy's daughter, Elisabeth, responded to me and  over the past several months we formed a friendship.  When an invitation was extended to come stitch with Mrs. Szigethy, I decided that there was no time like the present!

As you saw in my last post, we first visited Mrs. Szigethy's exhibit in Hövej.  At the exhbit, there was a display that provided some insight into how the embroidery is done.

First, you must understand that Hövej embroidery is only done by women who live or have lived in Hövej.  This art is passed down from one generation to the next generation.  There are no instruction books per se; but there are patterns which were designed by the original women who introduced the embroidery.  In the early 1900's, the women of the village would work all day and then would gather at night stitching by the light of gas lamps to complete their pieces.  As they stitched and talked, they would sometimes create new patterns for their designs. Today, there are approximately 15 - 20 women who are skilled at this form of embroidery; and as you saw in an earlier post, there are others who are interested in learning it.

You begin with one of the patterns which is drawn on paper; here are some of the patterns that were in the display:

After selecting the pattern you are going to use, you place your fabric over it and trace the design onto the fabric.  The fabric is usually organza or a very fine cotton...

Once your design has been traced on the fabric, then your fabric is stretched onto a wooden frame, like this:

And then you begin to stitch.  The embroidery is always white on white.  Mrs. Szigethy used Anchor threads.  As you complete your stitching the fabric in the holes must be cut out.  I expected to see a small fine embroidery scissors, but instead, Mrs. Szigethy used a larger scissors - it's all she's ever known!

And as mentioned earlier, oftentimes, the women would stitch late into the evening by the light of gas lamps (sorry for the angle of this photo).

As you can see, the holes are then filled with spidery like filling stitches.  Usually the larger holes will be filled with a different filling stitch.  The technique used to complete these filling stitches was needlelace.  After all stitching is complete, the fabric around the design is cut away.

Mrs. Szigethy was born in 1929.  She took interest in her mother's stitching when she was about 7 years old.  By age 10 she had learned how to do it and would stitch everyday.  Her father died at about this time and she helped to support the family by creating beautiful embroidered doilies and tablecloths that could be sold to help earn money.  

When Mrs. Szigethy was 25 years old she married and left Hövej to move to another nearby village.  She did not leave the embroidery behind.  20 months after she married, her husband died and left her with a 3 month old daughter to raise.  Mrs. Szigethy continued to sell her embroidery but it wasn't enough to support her and her daughter.  She left her daughter with grandparents and went to Budapest to study and became a midwife.  As a midwife, she delivered 22 babies in the village she lived in.  She then later worked as a nurse at the local hospital, married again and had two more children.  Her youngest child died very young.  Through all this time she continued to embroider as the extra income helped to support the family and allowed both of her daughters to attend school (university).  

I asked Mrs. Szigethy to tell me about the largest piece she ever embroidered.  She and three other women were asked to embroider the tablecloth that was used at the celebration of Stalin's 70th birthday.  The tablecloth was 8 meters long (about 26 feet) by 3 meters wide (about 10 feet).

Mrs. Szigethy does not sell her embroidery anymore.  She does it simply for the joy of doing it and gives many of her pieces away.  In 2011, Mrs. Szigethy was awarded Hungary's highest honor, Master of Folk Art, for her lifelong dedication to Hövej embroidery!

I had the good fortune of spending two afternoons with Mrs. Szigethy.  She was a sweet lady.  She loves to embroider and she loves sharing her talent with others.

We could not speak with each other, but Elisabeth, her daughter, helped by translating. Mrs. Szigethy would first demonstrate...

And then it was my turn...

We worked back and forth like that.  I was delighted to hear her say "ja, ja"  (it sounded more like "jo, jo") because that meant I was doing it correctly!

I was fascinated that she could work on such delicate fabric with such a large scissors!

On the second afternoon, we worked on filling one of the large holes...

And then it was my turn...(Chris C - note how long that thread was -- I was thinking of you!)

This visit was so special and I will treasure the experience as long as I live.  I hope that I will have the opportunity to visit again with Mrs. Szigethy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From Cradle to Coffin

Today I want to share with you photos from the exhibit of Mrs. Istvánné Szigethy.  The exhibit is located in this building in Hövej.

The exhibit is titled "From Cradle to Coffin" because the needlework displayed reflects different stages of one's life, from the christening gown to one's death bed.  The title is also appropriate because it features a lifetime of needlework all done by Mrs. Szigethy.  She began stitching when she was 10 years old and continues to stitch nearly every day; she is now 83 years old!  This exhibit represents her life's passion.

Before I continue, may I say that it is at times like this that I wish I was a better photographer.  Or maybe I just need a better camera.  I hope you will forgive me for any less than perfect photos!  This is going to be a picture intensive post - put your seat belt on!

Let's start with the cradle...this beautiful baby doll was adorned with Hövej embroidery:

And a little girl, perhaps in her First Communion dress:

A family dressed in folk costumes:

More Hungarian folk costumes on display:

Everyday items - aprons, tablecloths, doilies, handkerchiefs, etc:

A beautiful wedding dress (which was made by Mrs. Szigethy for her daughter when she got married):

 Other clothing - blouses, collars:

The people of Hungary are very religious and primarily Roman Catholic.  Mrs. Szigethy has embroidered numerous altar cloths, church linens, and vestments in her lifetime.  Here are some of the ones which were displayed in her exhibit:

And finally we come to "the coffin" or the end of one's life, depicted with a night stand that includes a bible and a rosary, next to a bed --check out the pillow case!

Please allow me to share a few more photos of the many doilies displayed throughout the exhibit:

Perhaps you would like to know more about Mrs. Szigethy and understand more about how she creates such beautiful needlework...come back tomorrow and I will tell you about her.  She is a delightful lady!

Before I go, if you are interested in knowing more about the exhibit, Mrs. Szigethy has a website with beautiful pictures and more information.  You can access her website at the link below:

Also, if you want to follow the events happening at the exhibit, Mrs. Szigethy also has a Facebook page.  Search for "Szigethy Istvánné".

One last look at the exhibit: