The mother/daughter team Helen Zemek Baine and Helene Baine Cincebeaux have been collecting and researching folk dress from Slovakia for over 30 years.
The pair visited more than 2,000 villages since 1969 to ask questions about the folk dress, customs and folklore. The lovingly decorated folk dress, often precious wedding wear, was made by men and women who were true artists in their unique design and color sense. Folk dress in this region was extremely varied, even from village to village and influences of many other cultures can be seen - from early Celtic motifs to Renaissance designs. The high level of technical skill in the pieces attests to the time devoted to making folk dress.
Embroidery techniques on display range from satin and cross stitch to tambour, kilim and hardanger, and sometimes two, three or more techniques are combined in one piece, then embellished with lavish bobbin lace. Colored lace is unique to this region. Batik fabric printing also played a part and rare double sided batiks are here. The creativity displayed is in addition to the labor involved in growing flax, creating the textiles and then decorating them.
The exhibit showcases a great variety of pieces from wedding headdresses and decorated sheepskin coats to elaborate bed covers, lavish aprons and rare ritual cloths. The 150 pieces on view span almost two centuries from the early 1800's to the present.
The exhibit ran through November 3, 1996. Dr. Janet Deberry Steinberg attended the exhibit and heritage festival on the last weekend of the show and offers us a review of what you may have missed.....
I just got back from the Ethnic Festival in Baltimore. Helene and her Mom's exhibit stole the show and justifiably so. It was absolutely exquisite.
Helene and her Mom looked lovely in their costumes and headdresses. There were only 3 or 4 Slovak exhibits but each was wonderful. There was a table from Jednota that had beautiful things displayed. They had for sale something I had never seen before. Slovak scratched Easter Eggs. They were all one color with the design scratched onto the egg so that it showed up white. The artistry was unbelievable. These were not like Pisanky that have many colors and designs. These were monochromatic and gorgeous.
The Jednota table also had a lot of historical books and pamphlets. I bought two eggs, a prayer book for my Mom and a doll that is ostensibly for my granddaughter but is really for me. It is going to live at Grammy's house.
There was a Slovak dance troupe that was terrific. They sang songs and performed dances from all over Slovakia. The dance from the base of the Tatrys could have come from Scotland or Ireland. You could really see the Celtic influence in it. The one performance that was unbelievable was a selection of shepherds songs played on a shepherd's flute. This was the first time I had ever seen this instrument. I would guess that it is about 5 feet tall and looks something like a carved walking stick. The music was ethereal and seemed to come from the beginning of time. It was fabulous. Hauntingly beautiful.
Helene told me that June Malina was there. I'm really sorry I missed meeting her. She reported that there was also a lurker who came up and introduced himself. She said he was very nice so come out come out wherever you are and meet the folks.
So that's my report. It really whetted my appetite for more Slovak meetings. The lady from Jednota said that they have one once a year. I will write to her to find out when and pass it along.
You can write Janet DeBerry Steinberg, O.D. via e-mail at email@example.com