Thursday, October 1, 2015

Scandinavian Travels - Viljandi Castle

As part of our field trip during Craft Camp we went to Viljandi - Home to the Culture Academy with Native Craft departments.. Also, site of a super cool castle ruins!

The town was settled in the 5th century, and the first stronghold built by the 12th, captured by Livonians, Germans, Russians, Estonians, Danes etc. throughout the years. Each owner built it larger, and rings of moats surround the central square.

The largest remaining wall serves as an amphitheater backdrop for performances.

The entire site overlooks a calm meandering river.

The castle passed out of usefulness and was left to ruin, with many wall torn down for their stones. The church near the gates, however, is still in use.
It was a windy, but rather nice, day for us in Viljandi, and not a bad spot to go to school! (Wink-wink.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Estonian Craft Camp - Mulgi Embroidery

The second Workshop at Estonian Craft Camp was Mulgi embroidery. Mulgi is a region of southern Estonia, on the border with Latvia. The region has a distinct style of dress, handicrafts, and language. 

People in the area have long worn richly embroidered pieces, and each symbol is full of meaning and history. The base is usually felted wool, and wool threads are used. The traditional colors are red, blue, green, and yellow, on a neutral background.

The main motifs are Circles - the earth, the sun wheel, the cosmos; Crosses - balance and relationships; Tree of Life - fertility; and the Rose - different number of petals have different significance.
Our project is a game of tic-tac-toe, perfect since the common motifs are either round, or crossed!

The color pallette was a bit more expanded, to fit modern taste. But I still wanted to stay somewhat true to the origins! Many of these threads were salvaged from old knitwear, still a bit kinky and some knots in it. There were beads available too, very traditional with metal disc and the like.
During the workshop I was only able to complete eight of ten pieces during the workshop. Hopefully I will get to the board and the final two circles soon...  I used reds and yellows for the circles, and blues and greens for the crosses. The stitches are all simple - outline stitch, blanket stitch, and some french knots.
I purchased, on the trip, some embroidery wool dyed with plants, in the colors used for Mulgi style work. I'm not sure what sort of project I will use them for, felted bags? Shawl? The rich symbolism offers so many possibilities!

More posts on Estonia, Finland, and the experience at craft camp to come in future weeks!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Old Towne Tallinn, Estonia - Mindfully Medieval!

We arrived in Tallinn on the Ferry, and a short walk later arrived at our guest house on the main square of Old Town! In 1050 a fortress was built here, and over the next few centuries a progression of castles, fortress walls, churches, and grand buildings were constructed on this hill overlooking the Gulf of Finland.
Street merchants in the shadow of a medieval wall.

Ornate buildings, both old and new, are the norm in Tallinn.

The view of the parliament buildings and Premiere's house from outside the walls. That red glow is from the slowly setting sun right after Midsummer.

Much of the old moats remain, and are now a band of parks around the center of town.

No biggy, just some huge medieval castle towers. It looks like people might live there...? Also, all this photos are taken after 10:30 at night. It never really got very dark.

Orthodox church from the Russian years. Since it was first a town, Tallinn has been run by Danes, Germans, Russians, and only in recent years, the Estonians themselves. It still has a huge Russian population, many of whom reject Estonian citizenship.

The full moon over the lively town square. Almost Midnight, and the sky isn't quite dark! What a lovely spot!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Craft Camp - Bone Carving

Greetings bloglanders, the madness has calmed a bit and I'm ready to begin posting more about our trip to Estonia and Finland!  First up, the meat of the experience - Craft Camp. Day one - bone carving!

The workshop is full of old-school tools for woodworking and such. Fortunately we were granted access to electricity and some modern pieces. These are the types of tools that require a class to use properly! We did, however use hand saws, a good arm exercise.

Our instructor had already done much of the prep work. She gets bins of bones from butchers and the like. She also told us that the hunting laws in Estonia stipulate that the right jaw bone of each elk killed is sent to the University for census purposes. After recording the info they are just given away, she has the hook-up!
She cuts the bones into pieces, and then places them in a metal basket. The whole container is left in a swift flowing river for three days and the bones are tumble to a smooth edge. Fucking Brilliant! (This is why she makes the big bucks, I suppose.) 

She had dyed some of the pieces with wool dyes.
 Good thing too, as the sanding process was most of the work we did! Here's a few antler pieces I sawed off to make into buttons. They needed plenty of sanding to become smooth enough for use.

I imagine our ancestors, lacking sandpaper, may have used the river tumbling trick for most things!

 My main project for the morning was a traditional needle case. The main part is a hollow leg bone, it was filed down inside and decorated. with a rune circle.

A dremel was used to create the indentations, and colored beeswax smeared on it to bring out the design. The top and bottom are jawbone segments, one with the tooth still rattling about. The needles go into the piece of felt, which is then pulled into the bone shaft.
 The afternoon was focused on a pair of bone needles and a brooch. The needle on top is the instructor's sample. The middle one has been thinned and shaped down. The bottom one is the fresh cut of bone.

I ended up using my knife to whittle the bones, as the sanding was slower and hurt my hands!
 Folks in the class made a variety of things, with different bright colors and carved patterns galore! (I am too practical for little bone trinkets.)

The circle with dot pattern is a traditional Estonian motif - the dot represents the self, the circle is the world around us. Sometimes simple designs are more than meets the eye.

I'll be posting, in the coming weeks, about my other three workshops and our experiences in Estonia!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Painted Postcards - Suomenlinna and Estonia

Another round of cards done! I'll need to really hop on these to send to my whole list before I leave!
 A tiny house, on a tiny island, in the bay near Helsinki

 Bunkers and gun posts on Suomenlinna, Helsinki across the water.

Ruins of the University Church in Tartu

 A tree lined road at the Manor in Oluvestere.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Finland Travels - Suomenlinna Islands

 On our third day in Finland we found our way out to the island of Suomenlinna, or Sveaborg as the Swedes call it. It is a group of islands in the Bay of Helsinki, the swedes built a fortress complex from 1748-54 to serve as a defense point against the Russians. Complete with cannon bays on all sides facing the water.
 Fortress walls with cannon positions evenly spaced. The walls are built in the "Star" style with protrusions at the corners of the fortress and long solid walls. It didn't work. The Russians took the island eventually and used it themselves.
 Inside the cannon positions. Large stone rooms with earthen floors and tiny ports looking out. Nice and cool in the heat of the day, rather dark, and with stalactites starting to form from the dripping of water .
After Finns gained independence from Russia, POWs were put to work restoring the fortress walls. The old tunnels are surprisingly sturdy and well maintained.

The island is a very popular summer destination, this was a rare shot of the main route through the fortress when it was not clogged with Chinese tour groups! Finns seem to come for picnics, and they hang out on the beaches and wild spaces.

 During WWII (The Continuation War, as the Finns call it.) a series of modern positions were added, anti-aircraft guns and naval guns. Each one had a protected position, crew shelters, and ammunition caches.
 This is a naval gun installed during the Russian period, probably about the middle of the 19th century.

 Troop shelters built under each position. Each one was a short curving tunnel, lined with stone. Rather nice and cool on a hot day!
 My boyfriend, the military history enthusiast,  pontificating. These are the protected positions where the guns would be mounted.

 Lovely little hillocks, with a less than lovely purpose. Nature is taking back her island.
 A powder magazine for ammo storage. These were very large and went rather deep back into the hill. Despite the rough look, they are not that deteriorated inside.

 The Finnish WWII submarine, Vesikko. Note the ice-breaking points and the black and white camo stripes.
 Inside the submarine, three torpedo bays in front. It was a very tight space! Supposedly 20 men would have served in the sub, which would have been awfully tight quarters. With untrained tourist, 5 people was stuffy...