Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Princeton Embroiderers embark on a Hungarian exploration

The October EGA chapter  meeting was a blend of cultural history, geography, art, embroidery and the significance of history on all these threads in the Hungarian story, as we worked with our instructor, Tunde Hagymasy, imagine an umlaut over the u, not on this keyboard, on Hungarian Folk Embroidery.  

Tunde teaches at the American Hungarian Foundation, whose museum is in our county seat, New Brunswick, and where there is an extensive collection of Hungarian folk embroidery, and where she is an authority on the region's culture, art and history, as well as a fine stitcher in the Hungarian tradition.  There are many people in this area descended from Hungarian immigrants of the mid nineteenth century, a time of turmoil in Europe.

She brought with her a slide presentation showing many costumes, with explanations of the various regions of Hungary they come from
Lacework with traditional motifs

Newly married couple, and see the rosemary, symbolic plant they both wear

This is a special room, used to be used for events such as childbirth, and last illness, where samples of the house embroidery was displayed, too

 and pictures of samples of a wide range of exciting stitched works, from lace (created starting in the twentieth century), and cloths dating back to the middle ages, including the golden cloak of a Hungarian king. In past times, clothing was very valuable, and conflicts could arise over ownership. It could also be used as a purchase currency on land.

Tunde brought a selection of illustrated volumes of embroidered works to browse, and here is seen discussing a fine point of origin with Maureen C, with ancestors from Hungary. 

Very knowledgeable about art, clothing design and geography, as well as the history of the region, Tunde showed us examples from many regions, and handed out a flyer reminding us of them, while locating them on the map for us.  

And there were samples of embroidered work to see and handle, including pieces she rescued from being tossed.  Always love a textile rescuer!

Textiles and the identifying flyer under the corner there

She explained at length the difference between digesting a stitching style and incorporating it into future pieces, rather than simply copying without knowledge and insight, and cautioned travelers that foreign made copies of Hungarian embroidery are finding their way into the Hungarian market, to the confusion of tourists wanting to honor the region by bringing home examples of their artwork. She takes seriously the concept of teaching the real tradition of embroidery, so that people can learn the authentic colors and motifs.

Hungary having been an important commercial center centuries ago, and having been overrun by other cultures, such as Turkey, the embroidery shows a wide range of motifs, some reminiscent of Chinese work, some of Turkish origin, some handed on to show up in Pennsylvania Dutch work, and some with reference to work seen in the UK in Elizabethan times.  But there is a distinct Hungarian flavor, despite all the cross currents of influence, and all the disruption of borders the country has experienced.

Several of our guild members have family who originated in Hungary and they were particularly eager to learn more about this stitching.  
Marylin examining some embroidered works

Marylin Beasley, who can trace her Hungarian roots back to antiquity, in fact, brought this program to us by force of sheer enthusiasm after she took a class from this teacher at the museum. 

This was a great program, and many members embarked right away on their kits, some using hoops, some not, since often this form does not use a hoop.  Working in hand is the traditional Hungarian method. 

This was a great afternoon, in the last stages of hurricane Matthew, just rain once it got here, and thankfully it didn't interfere with the program, so we had a sizeable turnout of members. This is a valuable way to preserve important cultural heritage, particularly in the textile area, since textiles are the ephemera of history.