„Sirogojno Style“: The Production and Distribution of Hand-crafted Objects/Products Made of Wool

  • Senka Kovač Department of Ethnology and Anthropology Faculty of Philosophy University of Belgrade
Keywords:
craftsmanship, objects/products, production, distribution, Sirogojno, Serbia

Abstract

 The basic premise of my research regarding the fashion production of Sirogojno style was that „objects are, like words, carriers of information“. Based on research published so far – a paper by Bojana Bogdanovic being the most detailed – and my own fieldwork conducted in 2010, I have attempted to ascertain the extent to which this particular style of fashion carried information about the cultural environment which it represented. The research encompasses the study of the materials being used, the production and the sale of products made of wool.  The development of this particular style was influenced by the enthusiasm of designer Dobrila Vasiljevic-Smiljanic and the women of the mt. Zlatibor region, as well as the support provided by the political structure of the period, the local government, and through Dobrila Vasiljevic-Smiljanic’s family ties – the church. Her creations are famous for incorporating adapted local ornaments. A distinct and recognizable style of woolen products was created. This „Wool Road“ – from using local raw materials to materials imported from Iceland, from creating unique motifs to sale in the open, from national and  international sales to musealized sales in the first decade of the 21st century – has lasted for over fifty years.     Products from Sirogojno were renowned both in the country and abroad. All the negative processes which happened during the nineties influenced the decline of production and distribution of hand-crafted products from Sirogojno. In the late 1990’s, the production was acquired by a local owner who didn’t show much interest in it. This production has been musealized in the first decade of the 21st century.  Dobrila Vasiljevic-Smiljanic told me in 2010 that „everything should be started from scratch now, from new motifs to new marketing“. The new owners of the firm say that „the villages are deserted and there aren’t enough weavers“. On the other hand, there is sale in the open, well set up and visible to visitors of Sirogojno. In this space, in typical small houses, women weave and sell woolen garments adorned with motifs which were once created by Dobrila Vasiljevic-Smiljanic. Most of these women feed their families this way, because a number of men were left without jobs in this region. All of my informants who work in the open state that they aren’t satisfied with their status. And none of them had any specific relation toward the fact that they were copying motifs created by Dobrila Vasiljevic-Smiljanic. In the final part of the paper I will offer my own understanding of the textile craft in Sirogojno. I emphasize that Dobrila Vasiljevic-Smiljanic had an active role in the shaping of the idea to found the Staro Selo Museum. It is a pity that her initial idea to represent the traditional way of producing woolen garments in this attractive setting fell through. Research conducted in 2010 has shown that the original production of „Sirogojno style“  is shrinking and being musealized. The Staro Selo Museum could pool the resources, become a center for craftsmanship and thus protect, develop and promote the textile heritage of Sirogojno.

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Published
2011-12-06