Georgian motifs in enamel, batik, tapestry and oil painting
At the Turkish Festival, held near Istanbul in late June and early July this year, Georgia was presented mostly by silver enamel jewelry by Sophie Etsadashvili and by Katherine Hehuchadze — fancy cold batik on homemade silk paper, tapestry with fulled wool and oil paintings. Each of the artists has been occupied in her field of work for the past 14 years developing original sketches, and invariably based on initial original traditions in ornamenting.
There are lots of people in Georgia who create something with their hands. And all masterpieces are different, even dolls are very different. “Each master has his handwriting” — says Catherine Hehuchadze. – “When you work long with any material, new ideas in the techniques that certan works originate from Georgia. The tradition is not lost. Like it or not, but the tradition of the entire nation always stays inside every person.”
Pale pastel colors are traditional for Georgians.
But it can happen that when traveling and contemplating the world while working creatively at the same time, you won’t be able to help reflecting colors of the world that is around and your mood in your work. In this case the mood of your work can go beyond the traditions of your country.
Indians and Africans have got an ideal similarity with Ukrainian ornaments. No-one re-invents the wheel. It all was invented long ago, and we just shift some fancy ornamental bases, simply changing compositions that by the way, show the character of the nation.
“- And the time.”
“- Yes, certainly, the time as well. Because everything depends on the time; things change, people change. Therefore, our works do not look like the old ones did. That is, on the one hand, there are some similarities, but if one looks closer, there is a huge difference.”
When painting batik I use paper for drawing placing it under the fabric and then I making an ornament by heart. As already mentioned, there are general principles of ornaments in different arts of different nations, but as for the particular compositions — they are my work of authorship.
When you look at the ancient Georgian fabrics or enamels, there are colors which are so far not believed to be made using natural dyes. But we do know for sure they are natural dyes. Artists simply knew what plant had to be used to get such color shades. This art is partially lost, but it began to revive 5 or 6 years ago. And now young researchers are looking for plants and experimenting with them in search of certain shades. But in addition there are yet several old masters who have been continuously working with natural dyes, have mastered the knowledge and are now eager to share it with everyone.
Specifics of Georgian ornaments and symbols
In fact there is no specifics anymore, because it used to lie in the fact that the pattern was telling the story of a person or a family, mostly woman’s. One could learn from them how old she was, when she married, but how many children had- this was mentioned in the ornaments where every small detail meant something. Now the patterns are not built that way but only to create beauty and to be pleasing for the eye.
Earlier, when a lady sat down to work with ornaments, most often she was sewing her biography in the embroidery. These ornaments used to be very small, but we have got such experts that now can read them. It had been done that way till the 19th century. These things are still preserved. I, for example, keep an old Georgian national women's outerwear — choha or Circassian. And through the embroidery on it you can also trace the history of the lady who made it.
Old ornaments are more or less preserved in Tusheti region in northeast of Georgia. Those are territories of Highlanders who have got special traditions: before marriage women made close friends with their future husbands (this friendship should not pass a cap, but basically it was close). So in the embroidery of those parts you are even able to trace information about how many boyfriends a girl had, whether she loved anyone, whether she was forced to marry or did it voluntarily and how many wedding gifts she had.
For example, if there was an octagonal star, it meant that she truly loved someone. If the star was black or of dark color, it meant that her love was not mutual. If on one side there were let’s say several small daggers, it meant she was friends with the identic number of men. Knowledge about the meaning of each symbol was passed to granddaughters by their grandmothers, and at the time everyone understood it perfectly. At present it is not known at all or there are very few people who know it.
— Why was the tradition interrupted?
In particular, it happened because the highlanders came down from the mountains, to be more accurate, it was in the late 19th — early 20th century when they were «let down», and they no longer live in the mountains.
Usually girls portrayed innermost thoughts on ornamented belts. They were embroidered on the unseen side of the belt – from the inside. The girls did it just for themselves; in such a way women spoke about their fates.
Old Masters, thank God, are still transferring their knowledge not only to members of their families, but also to other people who are interested in it.
In 2000, several artists organized a group that helped old ladies to revive their crafts because previously these ladies had abandoned all of them and I do not know the reason for this. For some time they did not manage to work creatively – there was lack of materials and money. It started in the 90th after the Soviet Union destroyed and the time was hard.
I know one 96-year-old lady who had a break in her creative work for 12 years. The lady was so happy and even cried from joy when we came to her and brought some strands with us and asked her to make a carpet. She started and within two weeks she made a large carpet for us. For her it was like second birth. And she is still working till now!
The state along with Ministry of Culture support masters: they organize many exhibitions with free participation for artists, provide good quality advertising and trips abroad. We stayed in Strasbourg for six weeks last year during the “Georgia days”, and all traveling expenses were paid by the Ministry.
In the 21st century it is difficult to find people who would like to wear 19th century clothes, for instance because of their weight. Therefore, our designers are trying to make costumes such that retains the style staying within the traditional framework as possible.
Georgia's most famous art areas are enamel, wool felting, batik, embroidery, knitting. Folk art among most of Georgians is of high demand. Almost every family has someone doing something in relation to this, especially grandmothers. That is, once a lady becomes a grandmother she begins to create something — says Catherine and then adds: «Art is such a hobby that if it is genuine, it will not let the person do anything else. Of course, it does not provide sufficient money, but for me it is better to put up with this money and do what I want, rather than work, for example in a bank and not have time for art. There is a category of people who can do so, but I and Sofie, we can not. Money is not the point of my life but the art is».
To earn for living artist sell their works in the gallery and are taking state orders.
In Georgia it is an ancient art, and they say that technology of cloisonné enamel remains the same as it was 12 centuries ago. Even the glue is cooked according to old recipes: with quince peel.
The art of cloisonné enamel reached its development in the Middle Ages in Byzantium. And since the Georgian culture was under its influence in that period, the enamel naturally adopted the best traditions of the Byzantine school. Although Georgian designs have always had their own handwriting.
Sophie Etsadashvili — one of the most famous masters of Georgia, working with enamel. Additional materials she is using are silver, gold, semi-precious and precious stones. In addition, among her works you can see tiny folk instruments, figures in traditional costumes, furniture, and more.
Sophie Etsadashvili is most probably the only artist in her country, who creates enamel of 24 layers. While studying at the art academy 18 years ago, Sofi defended the thesis about enamel; these were first steps of layered enamel revival in Georgia — Catherine Hehuchadze tells the Sofa’s story for her, due to the language barrier. Information for the research (as it happens) Sofa searched in libraries, museums, where she examined ancient themed exhibits with clearly seen layered enamel traces. «In museums everything is preserved, it’s simply that this craft has been abandoned for a while, it seemed frozen» — says Catherine. — Sofa has students, followers and we hope that they will start to work as well — not with one layer of enamel, but at least three or four.
The difficulty of work with so many enamel layers is that the more often you put it in the oven (each layer requires burning in the oven), the higher the riskier is that the work will burn with high temperature. So usually masters stop at one layer.
"But Sofa perfectly feels the oven. During 14 years she has been working with enamels: seven days a week without vacations. With me it happens I don’t have any mood to work but Sofa is always in the mood for work with enamels” — Catherine tells us about her friend and colleague.
Apart from enamel, stones are particularly important to Sofa. She works with any stones, integrates them perfectly into enamel decorations. "The stone itself tells Sofa where it wants to be. She usually does not change its shape much. So when creating an item the artist does not start from the design or composition but listens to the stone. "
Prices for enamel jewelry reach about 700 dollars, however there are products for 200-300 dollars. «That is not a price so high for a man not to be able to make a present to his lady, or for a lady not to afford to buy it» — Georgian ladies believe. And really enamel jewelry is the most common in Georgia, moreover, in the last few years it can be found at exhibitions and fairs in Ukraine .
Kateryna Kachur, Bohdan Hdal, Rukotvory
Translated by Yevhenia Koval