Wet felting tradition in Bulgaria. Ornamented woolen wedding carpets: function, technology, techniques of production and conservation issues

Elitsa Tsvetkova, Krassimira Frangova, Tereza Peneva

Publikation: KonferencebidragPosterForskningpeer review


The tradition of felt making was brought to the Balkan Peninsula during the migration of proto-Bulgarian tribes, who established the First Bulgarian Kingdom and introduced local people to elements of the Asiatic nomads’ culture. Written sources and images dated to the 10-11th c. AD show that felted objects were already in use in Bulgaria in the first centuries after its establishment. There is a large number of felted ethnographic artefacts from a later date among which wedding carpets are the most popular. A traditional part of the very specific customs of Bulgarian wedding ritual they are known in many of the mountain regions of Northern, Central and Southeastern Bulgaria. The production of felted wedding carpets is maintained as a living tradition in the culture of Bulgarians until the mid-20th century. Wedding felts are notable for their particular functional, iconographic, technical and technological characteristics, which remain exceptionally stable. Strictly conservative and binding, they are preserved unchanged over the centuries. The carpets are unbreakably bound to the daily round and important events in family life. The ornaments and composition of the decoration illustrate the proto-Bulgarians’ cosmogonic concepts about World and the Universe. They symbolize the union of the divine, human and nature; and wish fertility and harmonic co-existence. In most regions, the decoration of old carpets combines the natural colours of undyed wool. Elements intentionally dyed in other colours are rare before 19th c., when felts became multicoloured, the most ornate ones found in Koprivshtitsa. Today, the town’s museums keep the largest collection of wedding carpets in Bulgaria – 37 items, dated between 18th and19th c., which inspired the present research. It was carried out within the framework of a long-term project for the conservation of the felts launched in 2012 by the Directorate of Koprivshtitsa’s museums. In the course of the practical work, an integrated methodology for the treatment of the whole collection was defined and some interdisciplinary research of the objects was conducted. This added to the knowledge of the material essence of wedding carpets as a significant part of Bulgarian cultural heritage. In addition to presenting the origin, function, particular decoration patterns and symbolics of the objects, the poster focuses on the distinctive specifics of the otherwise traditional wet felting technique. Special attention is drawn to the carpets’ technological structure, composed of multiple layers distinguished by thickness, function, quality and processing of the wool used. To a body consisting of back, middle and front layers, a decoration layer comprised of single dyed woolen wicks is added. The layers are successively spread out following two main techniques – positive and negative, which condition modifications in the fulling process. These modifications influence the bonding between layers and are a prerequisite for the durability and the state of conservation of the felts. Last but not least, the results of the analyses (optical microscopy and thin layer chromatography (TLC)) of the dyestuffs are presented. These are compared to existing folklore sources, which helps to point out some of the natural dyes specific to the region.
Antal sider1
StatusUdgivet - 2017
BegivenhedICOM-CC 18th Triennial Conference: Linking Past and Future - International Council of Museums - Conservation Committee, Copenhagen, Danmark
Varighed: 4 sep. 20178 sep. 2017
Konferencens nummer: 18


KonferenceICOM-CC 18th Triennial Conference
LokationInternational Council of Museums - Conservation Committee

Kunstnerisk udviklingsvirksomhed (KUV)

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