FOLK a deeply personal tradition

The folk art of Hungary springs from a lively tradition of creativity found in many forms in the countryside. The spontaneous desire to delight and entertain, passed on from one generation to the next, in music, dance, crafts and costume is at the heart of Hungary's culture. And while in some places in the world you will see folk art confined to the museum, in Hungary it is a living tradition. Master craftsmen and women with a host of skills from saddling to wood carving, basket making to egg painting, will welcome you to their workshops, and even introduce you to some of the skills of their trade! In several important areas, Hungarian folk art is revered world wide. Halas lace, for example, from the Southern Great Plain, is unique in its intricate technique, and Kalocsa embroidered folk costumes have an ancient motif that shows up in pottery and wall painting. Both of these can be seen exactly where they are made, and tradition continues in the local markets and cottage workshops. Between the rivers Danube and Tisza, you will find the greatest variation of folk costumes, and it is here you will experience the many influences from which Hungarian folk art comes, the fascinating intertwining of Serbian, Swabian, Slovakian, Romanian, and Romany traditions.

The bulk of Hungarian folk embroidery is done on linen. The embroidery art of Mezökövesd (north-eastern Hungary) has a past of one and a half centuries. The needle-women cover the whole surface of the material and the result of their work is the many-colored, shiny Matyó needlework, as well as the famous Matyó costumes. Another favorite embroidery center is Kalocsa in the Great Plain region. Originally the old Kalocsa embroidery was white, with open-work. The colored Kalocsa embroidery of today first appeared after the turn of the century. This branch of folk art is closely connected with the painting and wall-painting common only in this part of the country. In Hódmezövásárhely (Great Plain) today the flourishing embroidery style of the l7th-l8th century is being revived and made suitable for contemporary home furnishing. Favorite colors of the old cushion-ends embroidered with wool are golden brown; dark brown, pink, cornflower blue, and a little black and green. On the northern fringe of the Great Plain the cross-stitch embroidery of Bereg was developed from the blending of many different styles.
The red and blue Palóc embroidery was and still is occasionally the main decoration of aprons, sheet-ends, fancy towels and kerchiefs presented as gifts. Most famous after Sárköz among the flourishing embroidery centers of Transdanubia are Rábaköz and Büzsák.

Pottery is another widespread folk-craft. Wedding were the most important occasion when people bought these attractive, decorated pottery dishes. In some districts it was not unknown for the family to order a whole kiln-full of pottery at such times The potters made the ornamental dishes especially wedding gifts, quite often painting the couple's name on-them.
The famous pottery centers of the Great Plain have many special characteristics in their wares. Ochre glazed water jars from Mezötúr with floral decorations. Brown, green and yellow pitchers from Hödmezövásárhely. Plates with flower, bird and star patterns from Tiszafüred, which line fhe walls of rooms, and the characteristic Miska jugs and drinking vessels from Mezöcsát.
Nádudvar is the center of the black pottery-making tradition. And in Transdanubid, the pottery wares of Csákvár and Magyarszombatfa in Örség region are of very high quality.

There is modern style of architecture which draws upon the folk tradition and humanitarian aspects of Hungarian life called Organic Architecture. It's part of the same lineage that has inspired the music of Béla Bartók and many artists in the visual and vocal fields.
Though very contemporary, Organic Art uses traditional motifs and themes from the past. One of its leading practitioners is Hungarian architect, Imre Makovecz who was born in Budapest in 1935. Makovecz has said: "Trees are the most complete representation of life. Branches are supernatural aspirations and roots represent the mysterious unconscious."
By visiting the houses and churches he designed you can get a flavor of this fascinating form of Magyar architecture. The buildings are living organisms, providing physical and psychological shelter that is enhanced by a folkloric component. He draws upon myth and legend to give shape to his projects. Look at the emergence of detail in the most popular art motifs. Tulips are among the common detail we find as part of his traditional style; Makovecz reproduces these themes on the entrance gate together with a moon and stars, very typical Transylvanian designs. The circular staircase in one house is yet another symbol: in the language of Rudolf Steiner, the Austrian philosopher and architect who has inspired Mr. Makovecz, the circle is an expression of calm and repose. Look for examples of Organic Architecture at the Stone Chapel on Budapest's Gellért Hill; the Community Center in Sárospatak and Kakasd; the Puszta Center in Hortobágy; the Camping in Visegrád; The Catholic Church in Paks.

Be sure to read our article about 'Horses and Folk Traditions' as well.