Journal of Ethnology 3/2008 deals with the activities of the Centre for Folk Art Manufacture (ÚLUV) that was a bearer of the heritage of handicraft traditions, their safeguarding and transformation to new contemporary shapes and functions, between the 1920s and 1995. In her contribution, Lenka Žižková deals with the history of this institution (The glorious beginnings and the inglorious ends of Krásná jizba and the Centre for Folk Art Manufacture), while Alena Křížová comments on the content of its art activity (Art inventions and ambitions of the Centre for Folk Art Manufacture). Daniel Drápala focuses on the personality of Vladimír Bouček in relation to the Centre for Folk Art Manufacture (Folk culture in the context of Vladimír Bouček´s professional activities), Josef Jančář describes the role of the institution in safeguarding the extincting handicraft techniques, problematics of their extinct as well as following struggles to continue the activitity in this field (Documentation of the Centre for Folk Art Production and its continuation).
Transferring Tradition column is devoted to one of Easter customs (so-called rattling) in the region of Uherské Hradiště (by Petr Číhal), Section Review remembers the important anniversary of Czech researcher and traveller Alois Musil (1868-1944). Social Chronicle remembers the anniversaries of ethnologists Hana Dvořáková (born 1948) and Josef Kandert (born 1943) and publishes the obituary notice of ethnologist Josef Vařeka (1927-2008). Other regular columns deal with the reports of conferences and folklore festivals and the reviews of new book editions.
The glorious beginnings and the inglorious ends of Krásná jizba and the Centre for Folk Art Manufacture
The contribution deals with the history of two designers ́ institutions related to folk culture. The first of them, the so-called Beautiful Chamber (Krásná jizba) was founded by the Association of Czechoslovak Work (Svaz československého díla) in 1927. From 1936 until its liquidation, it worked in the House of Industrial Arts (Dům uměleckého průmyslu) in Národní Street. The best Czech architects, graphic artists and designers of that time worked for Krásná jizba. Since 1929, Ladislav Sutnar, fine artist, architect and theorist, was its consultant. In 1945, the care of folk art production was supported by law, the public corporation – the Centre for Folk and Art Production – was established and Krásná jizba moved under its administration. After the nationalization in 1948, the Centre became the only institution that tried to rescue the crafts and producers by means of model workshops. In 1956, its sphere of activity was narrowed down to the protection and development of the so-called folk art production. Thanks to the cooperation between ethnographers, designers manufacture and sale, it was possible to maintain the high level of all folk and handicraft products and to develop the designer’s output. After the political changes in 1989, some workshops were returned to their original owners, or privatized. Two privatization projects submitted to rescue Krásná jizba, the designers ́ studio and the surviving model workshops were rejected and both the Centre for Folk Art Production and the Krásná jizba were privatized in the form of their liquidation.
Art Inventions and Ambitions of the Centre of Folk Art Manufacture
The Centre of Folk Art Manufacture was established in 1945 to support the traditional folk producers. In the first years of its existence, it struggled to maintain the original assortment of the individual workshops. In 1954, the Ministry of Culture commenced to act as its promoter. In 1957, a new Act here was issued and the conception of manufacture changed in favour of the quality-designed objects made of natural materials and by old techniques, which were just inspired by the folk art expression. Vladimír Bouček, the founder of the aforementioned institution, declared the so-called unbleached style to be its production programme. This style should become a common standard for the exquisite taste. In the designs of the products took part ethnographers, artists and technologists, who developed the typical style of domestic artefacts, beverage sets, fashion clothing, decorative objects and souvenirs offered in the shops called Krásná jizba (The Beautiful Chamber). This style became very popular in the towns, especially in the intellectual circles because it offered an alternative to the industrial production in the socialistic Czechoslovakia of that time, which brought insufficient invention and poor workmanship.
Folk culture in the context of Vladimír Bouček´s professional activities
The essay is devoted to Vladimír Bouček, one of the most essential personalities in the first years of the Centre of Folk Art Manufacture’s existence. Although Bouček was not an ethnographer (he studied architecture in the University of Technology in Brno), he took a significant part – especially between the mid-1940s and the early 1970s – in forming the Centre of Folk Art Manufacture as an organization interconnecting research and documentation, development and manufacture. He became actively involved in the field documentation of tangible culture in the Czechoslovakian territory. He used the gained knowledge for material and theoretic essays published in professional journals, and as documents for the designs of products resulting from the principles of traditional handicraft. Within the monitored phenomena, he paid the particular attention to three basic elements – material, technique and ornament. When developing the handicrafts, the put the greatest stress on keeping the technique. All the professional activities of V. Bouček were determined, however, by his motivation for the folk culture study – to use the gained knowledge to create and develop a system of an efficient support of the handicraft that shall serve – among others – to satisfy the contemporary needs of the modern society.
ÚLUV documentation and its continuation
The defunct journals Tvar (Shape), Věci a lidé (Things and People) and especially the important review Umění a řemesla (Art and Crafts) discuss the development of the Centre of Folk Art Manufacture and its role in safeguarding the declining techniques that produced the objects as accessories for modern living. The knowledge on natural materials and on technological principles of processing those materials for the need of contemporary environment led the producers, the ethnographers and the artists to a unique kind of cooperation. In 1992, this institution was liquidated. The National Institute of Folk Culture in Strážnice submitted a thorough project to take over and use the documentation of the aforementioned institution, but by the decision of the Ministry of Culture, those documentation funds have been passed to the National Museum in Prague and to the Open-Air Museum of Moravian Wallachia in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm. The National Institute of Folk Culture has commenced to compile its own documentation of folk manufacture in the Czech Republic; it also takes part in supporting the contemporary manufacture and prepares the documents for awarding the work of folk producers. Since 2000, the producers are awarded by the Ministry of Culture with the title the Bearer of Folk Craft Tradition.