Bulgarian Folk Arts and Crafts
  The Coppersmith's Trade

Coppersmith outside his workshop

 

 


Copper utensils - 19th century, Plovdiv

Coppers (harkomi) - 19th century; Copper pitches - end of 19th and beginning of 20th century, Plovdiv

 

Turkish coffee-pots, wrought copper - 19th century, Plovdiv

 

Small pitcher, copper, silver-plated, end of 19th century, Plovdiv


In the lands inhabited by Bulgarians, the tradition of metalwork (copper, iron, precious metals, ferrous alloys) is millenia-old. Their knowledge and practice in processing metals was largely determined by the mineral resources found here.

Coppersmithing had its heyday/peak as a craft during the 18th-19th century when the techniques of decoration became more diverse.

The variety of objects produced by coppersmiths was large - items for everyday usage, containers for storing, processing and carrying food, items used in farming and in the craftsmen's workshops, as well as items used in church rituals, etc.

The aesthetic qualities of wrought-copper items and their durability were valued  and contributed to the growth of the coppersmith's trade. The effect of the soft glow of the copper vessels arranged on the shelves at home -  dishes, bowls, trays, mugs, pots - was another attractive feature. Copper containers for water and baking pans were common wedding presents and gifts for a newly-built house or a newly-born baby. These exquisitely made items were handled with care in the household and passed down from generation to generation as precious family relics.

In their work copper-smiths mainly aimed at producing items of practical and multifunctional shape. It was complemented, however, by the fine decoration of streaks and dots left by the craftsman's hammer. Depending on the vessel's shape there were triangles and rhombs on the borders of the broad plates (sahani), wine bowls, and water containers (tasove) as well as on the lids of covered items worked out in the region of the Sredna Gora Mountains.

Typical of the Bulgarian decoration techniques are engraving by means of an awl (kalem) and the use of a stencil or acids for processing the metal surface. The style is ornamental, with open-work friezes. The combination of geometrical interlaced designs, medallions, stripes of stylized leaves of Indian palmetto, lotuses, rosettes, speak of different historical influences and a complex mixture of aesthetical perceptions of long generations of masters: Bulgarians, Armenians, Turks, Greeks. The Oriental art has left its mark on the representations of tulips, hollyhocks, carnations, hyacinths. Nevertheless, both in shape and ornamentation the Bulgarian element predominates - there are no over-decorated  engravings densely covering the surface that are typical of the Orient. The ornamental motifs are skillfully applied and combined with smooth undecorated areas. The friezes emphasize only the most conspicuous details in the outline. The decoration is suggestive of the function of the vessel, hence the implementation of some ancient symbols like crosses and rosettes, iconographic scenes or pictograms of a mythological origin.

Nowadays, copper items are mainly used as decoration of the modern interior.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

1. Traditional Bulgarian Costumes and Folk Arts. National Ethnographic Museum, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Compiled by Viara Kovacheva-Kostadinova, Maria Sarafova, Marina Cherkezova, Nadezhda Teneva. Sofia, 1994. (Photographers: Nedyalka Krapcheva, Sofia, Tancheva)

2. Ethnographic Museum Plovdiv. Compiled by Anka Radeva, Lora Hristozova, Raina Kableshkova, Sonya Semerdjieva, Angel Yankov, Stoyan Antonov, Valentin Manev. Vion Publishing House, 2004. (Photographers: Aleksei Assenovq Emil Mirazchiev, Milko Denev)