These articles were published in the Spectacular Slovakia travel guide, published annually by The Slovak Spectator since 1996. The latest editions can be obtained from our online shop.

Slovak Crafts

Vestiges of a Great Tradition

Text by Tom Philpott

 Courtesy: Slovenská ľudová majolika

After a century of brisk industrial development and rapid political transformations, Slovakia has changed dramatically since its days as the northern region of the Hungarian Kingdom. The educated young in cities such as Bratislava, Košice, and Banská Bystrica have as much in common culturally with their urban peers in the west - to whom they are connected by electronic media - as they do with, say, remaining village dwellers in the Spiš region.

Yet Slovakia retains vestiges of its pre-industrial past in its small-scale craft industries as well as its rich village folk customs. And for visitors who seek them out, these veins of folk culture offer unique experiences.

Its legacy in the crafts is particularly strong. In royal days, the Hungarian Kingdom concentrated its artisan trades in its northern region, i.e., Slovakia. According to the book Slovakia: European Contexts of the Folk Culture, there were about 7,000 artisans on Slovak territory in 1715 - around 75 percent of the total number in the entire kingdom, although Slovakia represented only about a fifth of greater Hungary's total area. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, Slovakia produced the bulk of handicrafts in the kingdom, sending its wares to as far afield as Transylvania and the Balkans.

Blacksmithing, woodworking, yarn- and fabric-making, pottery, ceramics, glass blowing - each had their place in Slovakia, their regional centre and their guild. Of course, as all over the world, the crafts declined after the collapse of feudalism and exist today only on a very small scale. Here are two major ones that remain.

These articles and related information were published in Spectacular Slovakia 2003.

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