Petra Plestenjak Podlogar Škofja Loka Baking Honey Breads and Hand-carving Moulds

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Petra Plestenjak Podlogar comes from a family of artists and has been carving wood for more than 40 years. She learned how to make wooden moulds for Škofja Loka honey bread (known as little Loka bread — Loški kruhek) from her grandfather Ivo Plestenjak when she was only 12, and now continues the centuries-old tradition of carving wooden moulds in the Škofja Loka region. In 1978, when she was 15, she took part in the 2nd biennial exhibition of arts and crafts in Slovenj Gradec organised by the Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia and received the title of master craftsperson. Today, she is the only master craftsperson in charge of passing on the skills required for carving wooden moulds for Škofja Loka honey bread in Slovenia. The unit “making small breads and wooden models” has been listed in the Register of intangible cultural heritage since 2018 — and Petra Plestenjak Podlogar is the person responsible for this heritage.

“They’re slightly more straightforward, but the honey bread is still full enough. I make the decorative mould more lace-like, finer, whereas I make each cut in the baking mould three times, to make sure it’s really well-opened and the bread gets a really nice pattern.”

Petra passes on these traditional skills through bread-making workshops at schools, museums and other institutions, as well as at the woodcarving workshops and courses at the Škofja Loka DUO Arts and Crafts Centre, where she sells her products that can also be purchased directly from her home. She is the president of the Domestic Arts and Crafts Section of the Regional Chamber of Craft and Small Business Škofja Loka and a member of the Škofja Loka Artists Association. She has had several solo exhibitions and has presented her craft in the international arena as well.

She most commonly works in pear wood. She has the pieces cut by a joiner, but carves the motifs by hand herself. Most of her chisels used to be her grandfather’s. She begins by making the basic form and then goes on to carve out the details. She carves in the negative, which requires careful consideration of the position of things, especially in the honey bread moulds that need open cuts, depth, and perspective, and have to be cut in mirror image. She considers the basic rules of proportion and perspective. Finally, each piece receives her signature and the year of production.The finished decorative models are waxed, whereas the baking models are left untreated. Baking moulds are different from decorative
ones as the former feature fewer details.
“They’re slightly more straightforward, but the honey bread is still full enough. I make the decorative mould more lace-like, finer, whereas I make each cut in the baking mould three times, to make sure it’s really well-opened and the bread gets a really nice pattern.”

Her carved wooden moulds for Škofja Loka honey bread feature both traditional and her own original motifs, but she also makes decorative ones. She makes considerably more of the latter. Building on the traditional patterns and forms is more important for her than simply reproducing them.
Recently, she has been combining her carvings with crocheted copper wire lace. She also makes bookmarks, key rings and carves decorative elements for furniture.