maandag 22 februari 2010

A Blue Gem disappeared...

A week before I went to Púchov got a mail from my Slovakian Friend Miro in which he wrote that Mr.Stanislav Trnka has passed away aged 75 year old.

One of the first times I was visiting Púchov I met this man who was the last Blue Print producer of Slovakia. He could talk very passionate about his work and his wife sold the fabric in the little souvenir shop in town which I always visited when I was in Púchov. This time I bought I think one of the last fabric he made and a little doll dressed in a blueprint fabric which hangs now above my desk in my workroom.From a colleague I got as a gift the last calendar he did print for the coming year. Unfortunately this will be the last calendar he printed and we have to miss it for the coming years.

I hope someone, or an museum or organisation will take care of this little factory because it would be so sad if this firm will forgotten. In my opinion it is very important for a country to take care of cultural heritage because it tells the history of a country which is very important for the coming generations.
Some years ago I did write an article about the workshop from the Trnka family but unfortunately Selvedge didn't publish it. I have made some changes to the original text and added some pictures.

A Blue Gem in Púchov ( The story of an almost lost world)

Coming to Slovakia many times the last 10 years,together with different European fashion/ textile schools because of International student projects I (and we) arrived the first time in a little town called: Púchov, in the north /west of Slovakia. Surrounded by mountains and beautiful landscapes this town still has a blueprint-studio were they produce in small quantities the famous Blueprint-fabric.
Stanislav Trnka is the owner and he told me the remarkable story of his studio. His studio lies behind his house in the centre of Púchov and is in the family for more than 100 years. Blueprint fabric is made mainly in Central Europe but was and is also produced in Germany and the Netherlands.

The story of the blueprint in Púchov all tough starts not in Púchov itself. In 1820 just outside Púchov, in a tiny village the family Zaieretchy started up a blueprint-studio. Because in this family there were no children to take it over from the owner, the workroom passed to the Trnka family in 1898 in the name of Joseph Trnka who passed it over to his son Alois. After that the current owner Stanislav got the workshop after a long training period before he was allowed to take it over from his father. Now they are in the situation that none of the children from Stanislav and his wife will take it over, so at the end the studio will disappear unless someone comes up with a good idea.


You might think when reading this word that the fabric is printed blue, but the opposite is true. The white fabric is printed with a chemical substance and after that is dyed blue. After washing the dyed cloth, the substance disappears and the white patterns light up. It is similar to batik, but the result is different.

In the beginning the patterns were printed on the fabric by using wooden stamps (Blocks) and they were made by special travelling men who came to the blue-printers to make new designs. Similar to blockprint in India, the printer puts the blocks in the substance and carefully prints the designs (often in rapport) on the white fabric. In a certain time in history the blocks were encrusted with metal pins and brass sheets and the designs became more detailed. In the workshop is an old electric German roll print machine were the stamp is been put in and by a repeating movement the substance is put on fabric. The stamps have the size of the with of the fabric. Now they also use screenprinting as a way to get the designs.

After this process of printing the cloth originally was dyed with natural indigo. Indigo is different from normal dyes because it sticks to the surface and doesn’t go into the fibre like normal dye does. After it comes out of the indigo tub the fabric has a strange yellowish colour, but with the use of oxygen in the air it turns blue like a miracle in minutes. Since 1930/40 natural indigo isn’t used any more and in came the chemical indigo which works in the same way but was much cheaper to use.

The patterns itself have changed during the years and you can see 2 things. One of it is that the designs are in strong connection with the region were the fabric is used.

The region of Púchov has simple patterns while more richer regions have more complicated and more figurative designs. The fabric is still used in traditional costumes from folkgroupes and everybody from those groups is very pleased that he produces his fabric. Also his fabric is sold in the shops from U’luv (the institute in Slovakia who buys and sells good traditional crafts from Slovakia).

But, as said before it will come to an end. In 1950 in the whole Slovakia there were 25 blueprint studio's, but in 1980 24 of them closed the doors and the only one which stayed open was the one form Stanislav. This man, who was invited to London in 1987 to show his technology at an textile event has to give up. Since the splitting up from Czech and Slovakia he lost 50% customers, and in the Socialistic era it was much better for me and it went down quite fast. Maybe a preservation village can do something for me.You need a market as a solution, but the market is on the move, he told me.
A little sad I was when I left his studio. The next time when I come to Púchov, it might have been gone, but this story needed to be told and I have been fortunate to meet up with this good craftsman. October 2005, february 2010

Some years later I managed to buy a indigo dyed piece of blueprint on linen at U'luv in Bratislava. It has this typical almost black colour you get from Indigo combined with a wonderful flowery patterned border and matching print for the rest of the cloth. I have never made something out of this fabric but cherish it a a beautiful piece of history

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Very nice page. Thanks. I provide page which try to put region together and show people what everything interesting is in our region. May be we will have also english version in the future.
    Can I use your informations and pictures at my page? I do all my job fo free till now, so I can not pay you.