On the outskirts of the Žilina Region, in the middle of the Strážov Hills lies the unique village of Čičmany, one of the most beautiful villages in Slovakia. It was revealed to the world by the architect Dušan Jurkovič at the Ethnographic Exhibition in Czechoslovakia in 1895, held in Prague. Since then the village has been a haven for tourists. The village is renowned for its painted wooden houses – like those depicted in fairytales. The embroidery of Čičmany, rich in ornamental motives, is equally renowned.
The embroidery of Čičmany
The oldest embroideries in Čičmany (19th century) were called staroverské and were probably imported. They used predominantly bleached and unbleached threads resplendent with red and orange colour; yellow and other colours being added later.The women of Čičmany used a geometrically stylized ornament. Each of its motives had its own specific appellation. The motive of the heart, but also of paths, flowers and similarly related motives were especially popular. These and other motives were often set into a lozenge which was often used for men's clothing..
In addition to the ornamental motives, a zoomorphic motive, called "cock", was typical of the village. This domestic animal was depicted geometrically. The shape of the cock was especially used for sheets, allegedly for their magical and protective attributes. The motive was supposed to protect people from evil forces and endow them with strength and fertility.
The development of embroidery of Čičmany was extremely influenced by a competition instigated by the Czechoslovak Red Cross, held in Čičmany in 1934. Local women had to sew women's clothes and garnish them with embroidery. The technique, colour and design were then evaluated. A member of the jury was also the President of the Red Cross and the wife of the first Czechoslovak president Dr. Alica Masaryková. Participation in the competition was high, because mothers had nurtured their girls‘ interest in embroidery since childhood.
The aim of the event was to encourage women's interest and active participation in this work and highlight the value of popular artistic expression. It succeeded and the traditions of embroidery have been maintained in the village right up to the present day. Many tourists visiting Čičmany are captivated by the beauty of the local embroidery, being unable to resist the temptation to purchase items as souvenirs.
Source: M. Mrva