Explore the most colourful Bulgarian tradition of weave making with the professional weaver Jana Ivanova. I spent last weekend at Plovdiv Regional Ethnographic Museum witnessing the last moments of preparation of her anniversary exhibition Roots are alive.

This week she’s celebrating her 70th birthday and the 30 years of her weaving activity and making handmade Bulgarian carpets. For the following days (until 17 November) she will be personally greeting visitors of the exhibition sharing the secrets of the craft and explaining the meaning of the patterns.

Handmade Bulgarian Carpets

The tradition of weaving and making handmade Bulgarian carpets runs in Janna’s family, her grandmother was a known carpet-maker in the region who specialized in Kotlenski tradition.

One of the main features of Kotlenski design is that the composition has a checkerboard pattern of a repeating motif, which leads to the creation of two patterns – curly stars and fuchilas.

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The predominant tones in the Kotlen carpet are red, grey-green and light blue. Additional colours are black, pink, white, yellow and purple. The main elements of these handmade Bulgarian carpets are formed with triangles and rhombuses.

Jana prepared about 50 original artefacts that can be bought and collected after the exhibition, the beginning price is 30 levs. Some of them have only a decorative purpose. Like the composition Four seasons below.

Handmade Bulgarian Carpets

But the majority combines aesthetical and practical functions. For instance, small pockets can be used as pockets for cutlery or scissors, while carpets and covers may act as large pictures.

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The largest and oldest item at the exhibition the carpet Roses made in 1996. ‘It’s very special to me because I made it following the patterns of a very old carpet inherited from my grandmother, – told me Jana. – But at the same time I added many individual features and experimented with floral and geometrical patterns’.

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Except for the traditional material wool, for some items Jana used dry corn which added some rural charm to the canvas.

Works by Jana Ivanova with corn

To highlight the colour and style diversity, Jana invited a professional designer Asya Ivanova (in the picture below with Jana). She created several sets of compositions considering their colours, styles and sizes. It was incredibly interesting watching the professional designer working. Nowadays it’s a bit old-fashioned, and many people prefer to save money and arrange exhibitions according to their own tastes.

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Although Jana has a good aesthetic taste, she admitted that without Asya, she couldn’t make the exhibition so appealing and comfortable for different visitors.

Another useful facilitator of the designs for the visitors is a catalogue of patterns that the craftswoman prepared for those who want to know the meaning of the designs and their history.

Jana’s done her best to make one of the meaningful occasions in her life interesting and beneficial for everyone who appreciates Bulgarian culture and good talk. For the whole duration of the event, Jana will be there working on her another masterpiece at the museum and ready to answer all the questions.

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Come to see Roots are alive at Plovdiv Regional Ethnographic museum till 17 November from 9.00 to 17.00 and enrich oneself with an unforgettable experience! Those who have any questions to Jana, can simply call her +359889873183 (Viber is also available).

Plovdiv Regional Ethnographic museum

This post is part of the project the Month of Cultural Exchange between creative practitioners of European Capitals of Culture. More details are on my November Facebook timeline.

Find more ‘Cultural Insights’ tips in the section Places of this blog.