December 29, 2012

Kilim Rugs from Pirot

In the past years I worked on the renovation of our cottage in the Jablanica region of Serbia, and now what I'd like to hang on a wall of its living room is a traditional Kilim rug of Pirot (Пиротски Ћилим).

The Kilims of Pirot were usually used for covering floors, walls and for to be used as curtains, for bedspreds and for covering parts of furniture.
As part of the Serbian Heritage and Culture, those rugs are now often used for ethno style interiors and people who look at this picturesque folk art still gets inspired by its colors, ornaments, pattern and quality.

Kilim weawing was (and still is) a strenuous and laborious work, so it's often seen like a writing, a story and a diary of the person who made it. For centuries, women have been weaving their pain, joy, messages and symbols into the rugs.

Originally, these rugs were only an object of use, but slowly they became a symbol for heritage and were an inextricable part of the region in which they were created. Kilims were given as a gift only on special occasions – they decorated the salons of the Serbian dynasties of the Karadjordjevic and Obrenovic and rulers used to offer them to foreign diplomats, as a valuable gift and a unique souvenir from Serbia.

The most important ingredient for a good quality kilim is the wool (obtained from the sheep from the Stara Planina). Only a good quality wool is a guarantee for a long duration, a nice appearance and a high quality weaving.
The sheared wool gets classified by fiber length and then washed in boiling water, rinsed out, dried, bleached and dyed. By spinning the precious wool is transformed to yarn.

Pirot, situated on a caravan road between the Middle East (Among the most famous kilims are the ones from Persia, Afganistan, China and the Caucsus) and Europe, became a famous center for this ancient weawing technique.
In the 16th century, when rugs were made exclusively for domestic needs, the kilims were simple and mostly uncolored. However also multicolored rugs (called “ŝarenice”) were made.
In the 17th and 18th century the kilim making was improved and weaving was done on a vertical loom known under the name of “Pirot loom”. The Pirot vertical loom is a simple device leaned against a wall.

 In the 19th century, the Pirot kilim reached the highest technical and art values with its real wealth of ornaments, colors and motifs. The kilims were earlier dyed by natural plant dyes later artificial (industrial) ones were used allowing more nuances of one color.
From century to century the kilim is crafted less and less in private houses and more and more in manufactures like the ones in Pirot during the 18th and 19th century. At the end of the 19th century Pirot had 250 looms and between two world wars a half of the whole women inhabitants of Pirot were involved in kilim making.
In 1886 the Kilim society of Pirot was founded and in international exhibitions and fairs Pirot kilims started to win gold-medals.
In 2002 Pirot Kilim became a Serbian Brand with protected geographical indication with 122 ornaments and 96 types of rugs registered.

Patterns and Motifs
The ornaments are always geometrical and the the same pattern appears repeated in different colors. Across the time they have always been transformed and enriched continually.
The most common pattern are:
rhombs, stylized “mirab” (kind of pattern), little dining-tables, amulets, German boxes and bombs, French candies, chests (“kuveri”)
then there are figurines like lizards, flames, small birds, scorpions, branches, doves in several variants, roses in several forms, pomegranates, wreaths, cross section of flowers braided into a wreath, flowers (carnations, pansies, tulips, roses).

А bold red color in several nuances – from light red to the color of rotten sour cherries prevails on Pirot kilims. The blue color is often used (gained of natural indigo) with little of yellow and white color (since mid of the 19th century, before the color beige made of onion leaves was used as white).

More information abоut Kilims:
The website of the Guild of the Kilimmakers in Pirot : Damsko Srce (

On Wikipedia the best Information about Pirot Kilims is in German (relying on the book about Kilims from Peter Bausback, 1983: Kelim. antike orientalische Flachgewebe. Klinkhardt & Biermann, München. ISBN. 3-7814-0206-1)

A good document about the sheeps of Stara Planina is a little information brochure from Sergej Ivanov (from which I used the pictures for this post)

A good website with lots of infromation about Pirot kilims:

Very beautiful picture of old Kilims on Tanjica's Flickr site:

And here my post about the Serbian Pavillon at the Shanghai-Expo with a facade inspired by Pirot Kilims

December 17, 2012

From Russia to Serbia

This weekend the Serbian Broadcast Company RTS aired a rerun of the great show "Sasvim Prirodno" (All about Nature)  and this time author John Memedović ended up in Russia from where he brought a very unusual story.

Together with 20 Russians and cinematographer Soni Darijević he sailed on three ancient Russian sea boats – the Vityaz, the Khrabr and the Slavyana all the (water)way from Russia’s Samara Region to Belgrade. 

The idea to travel 5'000 km like this came from Russian monk Father Feoktist and author John Memedović, for a good story, could not turn down this proposal…he accepted the anything but confortable way to travel, and even if he had really to struggle he jumped in and documented this trip.

"In today's time we live fast and constantly look for new things and values change all the time, so we are prone to forget the origins and we move away from the traditions ... " says Memedović.
Because of that, this intrepid crew did something completely opposite: they turned the clock 1'000 years back and slowed down the time. With great respect for history and heritage they went through this journey and made a very interesting doc.

I really enjoyed the beautiful landscapes….and listen to the beautiful song "Serbia" of Otac Feoktist (song in russian language, serbian translation underneath)

To see the documentary in Serbian her are the links: Part 1 unad Part 2

Од давнина гарде непријатеља су твоју душу тугом палиле.
Али разапети твој дух, да би угасили ватру, цео свет није могао.
Царство Христа не силази с крста, бићемо заједно са тобом!
Црни зли ветрови неће угасити ватру -- близак је наш последњи бој!
Сутра је наш последњи бој.


Србијо, Србијо, ти си љубав моја, ти си сестра моја, Србијо, Србијо!

Лепотом чудесна, светла земља, острво православља.
Господу верна, Светог Духа пуна, Божја Југославија.
Мили Радивоје, златни витеже, стаћемо, брате, раме уз раме.
Богатир је с тобом, исукаће свој мач, упалићемо свећу пријатељства.

Долине и гребени, куполе, крстови, звоњава звона позива.
Дечицу да роде, у Христу да расту, ред је на српске мајке.
Много година, живела заувек, буди снажна сама у себи.
Од сестре рођене, од свете Русије, Србијо, поклон теби.

Od davnina garde neprijatelja su tvoju dušu tugom palile,
Ali razapeti tvoj duh da bi ugasili vatru, ceo svet nije mogao.
Carstvo Hrista ne silazi sa krsta, bićemo zajedno sa tobom!
Crni, zli vetrovi neće ugasiti vatru -- blizak je naš poslednji boj!
Sutra je naš poslednji boj.


Srbijo, Srbijo, ti si ljubav moj, ti si sestra moja, Srbijo, Srbijo!

Lepotom čudesna, svetla zemlja, ostrvo pravoslavlja.
Gospodu verna, Svetog Duha puna, Božija Jugoslavija.
Mili Radivoje, zlatni viteže, staćemo, brate, rame uz rame.
Bogatir je s' tobom, isukaće svoj mač, upalićemo sveću prijateljstva.

Doline i grebeni, kupole, krstovi, zvonjava zvona poziva.
Dečicu da rode, u Hristu da rastu, red je na Srpske majke.
Mnogo godina, živela zauvek, budi snažna sama u sebi,
Od sestre rođene, od Svete Rusije, Srbijo poklon tebi!