TINKERS tended to fascinate artists in a way that was unparalleled among other craftsmen. Painters from Budapest, Prague and Vienna, as well as other European cities, portrayed them in their work. These distinctive individuals, often dressed in clothes which differed from those worn by ordinary urban dwellers, attracted artists. It is thanks to this appeal that we now have a large number of images of tinkers.
In this postcard from 1921, we see a portrait of a tinker from Hvozdnica by painter Ladislav Treskoň.
Hvozdnica was among about fifty villages and towns in north-western Slovakia from where tinkers most commonly came. Men from the Trenčín district got to know wire in Silesia, where they worked as loggers and coalmen. It was there that they witnessed the domestic wire-processing skills that they later brought back to their own villages.
In the Trenčín district this activity developed into a trade that occupied whole families. First, they just repaired damaged and broken containers by fastening them with wire or weaving wire around them. Gradually, the trade changed from one practised at home to a largely itinerant craft. Tinkers undertook trips across the whole of Europe, where they repaired damaged kitchen utensils in households and sold metal traps to catch rodents. Several tinkers later founded large and successful factories. The most successful of them traded in Russia and in America – this, however, was metal- and wire-processing on a different level.
In Slovakia, the tinker craft died out in the first third of the 20th century. But to this day, several enthusiasts continue to devote their time and energy to maintaining the craft as a hobby – among whom one at least deserves mention: Štefan Smržík of Námestovo.
1. Nov 2010 at 0:00 | By Branislav Chovan