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Top Pick: Traditional weavers bring craft into fair spotlight

WHEN Mária Michalková, 40, talks about her work as a weaver, she fascinates audiences not only with what she creates with her hands, but also by how she describes it. The terms she employs for the various tools and techniques seem to come from a different, bygone language.
Michalková will be among 160 craftsmen and women from Slovakia and other European countries presenting the country's almost forgotten traditions at the annual European Craft Fair in the eastern town of Kežmarok. Every second weekend in July, European craftsmen will gather in the High Tatras mountain region to show their artistry and talents in working with wood, glass, leather, gold, iron and other traditional materials in handmade products.
The festival opens at 13:00 on Friday, July 12 with a symbolic assault on the city gates by knights and swordsmen, and continues until Sunday. Every year the folk market highlights a particular craft, and this year it is the weavers' guild that is in the spotlight.


SLOVAK weavers will get a chance to show their wares and wiles at a craft exhibition in Kežmarok July 12-14.
photo: TASR

WHEN Mária Michalková, 40, talks about her work as a weaver, she fascinates audiences not only with what she creates with her hands, but also by how she describes it. The terms she employs for the various tools and techniques seem to come from a different, bygone language.

Michalková will be among 160 craftsmen and women from Slovakia and other European countries presenting the country's almost forgotten traditions at the annual European Craft Fair in the eastern town of Kežmarok. Every second weekend in July, European craftsmen will gather in the High Tatras mountain region to show their artistry and talents in working with wood, glass, leather, gold, iron and other traditional materials in handmade products.

The festival opens at 13:00 on Friday, July 12 with a symbolic assault on the city gates by knights and swordsmen, and continues until Sunday. Every year the folk market highlights a particular craft, and this year it is the weavers' guild that is in the spotlight.

Michalková is one of those enthusiasts who has turned a hobby into a profession. While unemployed she participated in a training course run by the state Labour Office, where she re-discovered her talent for weaving and remembered what she had once learned from her grandmother.

It is the second time she has taken part in the festival, hoping to present her skills to interested visitors and also find customers for her products, as most such sales are based on personal contacts. Her works range from tablecloths and pillowcases to bags and carpets using both traditional colours and patterns of the region as well as modern designs.

"Weaving used to be a man's profession but now it has become mainly a source of income for women. Still, competition in the market for handmade products is tough," says Michalková, who says her competitive edge lies in the quality of her work and the natural materials she uses (cotton and linen), which are not easy to find in Slovakia.

The popularity of the festival has been growing every year, and next weekend the organisers expect more than 60,000 visitors from Slovakia and abroad. Along with restaurants and food stands, there will be a cheese market and a replica of a shepherd's cottage (koliba) offering local specialties. A historical train with a steam locomotive will run between Kežmarok and Poprad, while an artist who will create puppets during the fair will stage a puppet theatre.

The European Crafts Fair (Európske ľudové remeslo - EĽRO) runs July 12-14 in Kežmarok historical centre. Entrance fee/day: Sk50-adults, Sk30-children. For information visit www.kezmarok.sk or call 052/4524-046.

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