The ÚĽUV is Slovakia

The ÚĽUV is Slovakia

An interview with Milan Beljak

Editorial board

When a visitor comes to Slovakia, he/she leaves the country with a souvenir, a typical object from an ÚĽUV shop. The Centre for Folk Art Production (ÚĽUV) has been a unique contact place in the retailing network where one can meet Slovakia. The general director of the Centre for Folk Art Production Milan Beljak speaks about its past, present and future.

Events of the past twenty years deprived us of great deal of our identity. We have surrendered the pressure of economic reforms and abandoned traditions, replaced them with cosmopolitan lifestyle and our young people loose interest in our cultural history. Can traditional folk art survive under new conditions and pressure of commercial market?

“I am confident that folk art will co-exist with fine arts as it represents natural creative expression of people. The question is which form it will attain and if it preserves the original character because the uniqueness of folk art expression is the most endangered element of folk art in our global world. Conditions supporting creativity of folk producers and releasing their stagnating production must be developed. It is therefore very important to revive folk art and its traditional and modern values for those who are interested. The ÚĽUV has produced a very strong generation of designers. They have succeeded in reviving and updating the true values of folk art. They have created something that can be, and certainly is, the national design. What they created in collaboration with folk producers are products that have become so popular that they are now considered to be traditional and nobody knows that they are products of creative mind of a specific person.”

What do you expect from collaboration between a folk producer and a designer?

„I believe that it would help to have folk art back in our homes and to become part of our housing lifestyle. The collaboration would help to keep the national identity and uniqueness alive and to generate new ideas. Over the years, the ÚĽUV has transformed into a unique brand, a synonym for Slovakia. The ÚĽUV used to be a place with many perfect things. The organisation employed seven to eight visual artists and it seemed that an on-field modification of their designs would be without problems and that new designs would be developed continuously. Well, it did not work that way. Development during the previous twenty years stagnated, we must admit.

We in the ÚĽUV have struggled to revive design and build it upon our traditions. The Rings in Water is not an event without purpose. It is a competition inviting young designers to show their creative potential and ability to incorporate folk art ideas into their work. It is the way how we approach young gifted people and identify those interested in this type of work and who are ready to be fully engaged in this activity. Unfortunately, we need to develop a production line from an art work or it is impossible to utilise their work. Another important thing is that a designer cannot make their living only from creative work. Designers must tolerate the fact that their artwork will be reproduced and that they must waive their rights as authors to certain extent. However, it does not mean that a product will loose its uniqueness. Creativity of the product will be reproduced.”

How do you see cooperation of the ÚĽUV and designers?

“It is only an idea that will become real when we find people willing to promote it. I believe we can establish an open studio. Experts from the ÚĽUV would identify a designer who would start cooperation, free of charge, on a new product with a producer. A prototype will be assessed by the art commission and the ÚĽUV will buy it to incorporate it into its collection, if interested, and start production, if recommended. However, designer´s work is not over now. A designer will make design of a new product and supervises the production. We may wait for some results for three years, for example, but we should start doing something, introduce products into real life and prove its quality. The ÚĽUV must remain a functioning creative workshop.“