THERE may not be much going on in Slovak design when compared to the neighbouring Czech Republic. However, in Slovakia there is certainly one identifiable trend: designers using the crafts of their forefathers to produce stylish, contemporary products.
The young talents are drawing inspiration from what they find at home, though that may be hidden away in museums. They study the wire bending techniques of tinkers, the sewing style of leather seamstresses and the carving of woodcarvers. They then bring these bygone techniques into compliance with stylish, modern-day trends.
The public can regularly see and buy these young guns' products at Bratislava's ÚĽUV Design Studio. The place operates under the Centre of Folk Art Production (ÚĽUV), an organization that has preserved the heritage of artistic folk craft since 1945, when, in the then Czechoslovakia it was founded in both the Czech and Slovak lands.
The fact that the craft-inspired designers have a stable place for promoting and supporting their creativity in Slovakia "draws greater attention to this specific design approach" within the country's environment, says the studio's director, Viera Kleinová. Their names and products are known in the design industry and several firms cooperate with them.
Slovakia, in contrast to the Czech Republic, managed to save the institution that takes care of traditional heritage after Communism fell in 1989. Therefore, Kleinová explains, this trend is more visible here than may be the case with other countries whose designers also draw inspiration from the "domestic".
The ÚĽUV Design Studio originated five years ago. ÚĽUV's director, Milan Beljak, met with the head of the Industrial Design Department at the University of Fine Arts, Ferdinand Chrenka, who was interested in "seeing the shift of folk traditions into the modern".
Since 2000, the studio has introduced many fresh ideas, created in combination with the "bygone", to the artistic field as well as business market. Though the majority of the designers on show are artistic professionals, Kleinová also lets in amateurs. "If somebody is good, there's no reason I shouldn't include him or her," she says, adding that to discover somebody who is not an offspring of the design schools is much harder and therefore "a greater joy".
"The five years of the centre's existence proved that inspiration from the traditional is quite strong here," Kleinová said.