Carrying Tradition on Their Shoulders

The centuries-long tradition of woodware

By Slovenian Tourist Board

Old working area in Ribnica by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

Near Ribnica there’s a workshop which smells wonderfully of freshly treated wood. One can say that somebody could spend hours and hours there, because the cozy place is full of wooden products in various stages of production.

Anton Govže making wooden souvenires (2021) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

The workshop belongs to Anton Govže, a woodturner who is the longest-serving craftsman in Slovenia. 

He learned the craft from his grandfather and father. He was 12 years-old when he started to explore the magic of wood.

Anton Govže shaping wooden souvenires (2021) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

Now, he’s more than 90 years old and can still be found in his beloved workshop every day. Just out of love.  

These days the things he most adores making are miniatures and wooden souvenirs.

Anton Govže and wooden egg (2021) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

You almost can’t think of a wooden product he hasn't made yet - from a wooden egg and a chalice, to a butter dish. 

For all of these he uses maple, beech and pear wood, as the wood for woodturning must be hard.

Metod Jaklič's rims (2021) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

But Mr. Anton is not the only one! In Ribnica, one can find quite a few people who are making sure that these beautiful crafts stay alive. Oh, you thought that woodenware is just one craft? 

It includes about 10 crafts and it is believed that there isn’t one person who could do them all. There’s woodturning, making spoons, making rims, weaving, making toothpicks, hand carpentry, toolmaking and more.

Metod Jaklič making rims (2021) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

Metod Jaklič is a rim-maker. He too started with the craft very young, at just 13 years old. The rim is a part of every sieve, so he sells his rims to local sieve-makers. 

He still likes to remember the times when people from all over Yugoslavia were buying his rims.

Metod Jaklič splitting wood (2021) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

In more than 70 years of experience, he has learned so much that he knows if a piece of wood is good enough for making rims only by knocking on it. He finds out how the tree grew and if the wood will easily split just by the sound.

Hand-made sieve (2021) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

A sieve-maker then turns the rim into a sieve by adding a wire gauze or some other mesh.

Andrej Mihelič (2021) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

One of the craftsmen who still make handmade sieves is Andrej Mihelič. 

But not only that, he is also one of the few artisans who still know how to make the distinctive ribniška krošnja.

The peddler by Luka IleršičSlovenian Tourist Board

Ribniška krošnja is a bunch of products ...

... that Ribnica’s peddlers used to carry. “Krošnja” in Slovene means "treetop", so the name comes from its look - the wooden products are spread around a peddler’s head so that any passerby can see what’s for sale. They would sell wooden products the family made during winter.

The peddlers would walk from house to house and from town to town. They travelled not only all over Slovenia, but also to Croatia, Italy, Austria and Germany. Some went even further, all over the world.

Craftsman Tanjko from Dvorska vas (1968) by Ljudmila BrasSlovenian Tourist Board

However, with faster means of transportation, the craftsmen started to travel with cars and trucks.

Craftsmen carrying woodware (2019) by Marjan KapeleSlovenian Tourist Board

And with that, the era when they were away from their families for months at the time, selling woodenware god knows where...

...writing letters home and giving wooden spoons in return for a place to sleep, ended.

Making toothpicks (1965) by Boris KuharSlovenian Tourist Board

Yes, a peddler’s life wasn’t easy. And neither was his family’s. They were preparing for the season the whole winter. 

Cold winter evenings were, for example, perfect for making toothpicks.

Toothpicks (2020) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

Can you imagine? So many hours and patience was - and still is - put into the work. All because of October 23rd, 1492. 

On this special day, emperor Frederick III legalized free trading with homemade wooden products. Some centuries later, every fifth inhabitant of Ribnica was a craftsman.

Franc Jaklič making traditional vat (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

Sadly, today there’s less and less of them. Franc Jaklič is almost the only one who still makes the traditional kind of vats and tubes. 

Traditional vat with wooden rims (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

And he’s the only one who knows how to make this kind of wooden rims for them too.

There is a reason these crafts are still alive today - craftsmen adapt to the market and make smaller versions of vats, as they are more popular.

Tekavec family making wooden spoons (2021) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

But the most important reason for keeping the tradition alive is passing the knowledge down to new generations. 

The Tekavec family has been making wooden spoons for 50 years.

Wooden spoons (2021) by Žiga LovšinSlovenian Tourist Board

How nice it must be to cook with a spoon which was made by the joined forces of the whole family - grandfather, father, mother and son.

They make about 100,000 wooden spoons per year. All from local or even their own wood. 

Ribnica Fair (2016) by Matevž PetrovičSlovenian Tourist Board

Every first Sunday in September, there’s a fair in Ribnica, where you can pick your favourite local wooden products at any of about 400 stalls. 

On this day there’s also a Craftsmanship festival, where all the other craftsmen of Slovenia present themselves too, and so the tradition stays alive.

Tub-maker Franc Jaklič making a wooden tub (2021) by Bright Visuals, Fabulatorij and Trampolin Studio.Slovenian Tourist Board

Woven baskets (2021) by Luka SveticSlovenian Tourist Board

Oh, we mustn’t forget the baskets! The must-have for every mushroom picking, chestnut harvest or visiting the local market. Check out how the traditional basket is made.

Credits: Story

📣Special thanks to:
The Public Institute Ribnica Handicraft Centre
Slovene Ethnographic Museum

🔎Sources:
Slovensko narodno izročilo; Pavlin D., Kranj: Lexis, 1993
Ljudska umetnost in obrti v Sloveniji; Bogataj, J., Ljubljana: Domus, 1993
Andrej Mihelič - sitarstvo 
Anton Govže - lesostrugarstvo  
Metod Jaklič - suha roba - obodarstvo 
Vladimir Tekavec - suha roba - žličarstvo  
Franc Jaklič - suha roba - posodarstvo 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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