Rural Development Cooperative Pomelaj Weaving

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Tanja Horvat works at Pomelaj, a rural development cooperative that operates at the Sabol homestead in Mala Polana, charged with preserving and passing on the basketmaking tradition. Initially, Pomelaj served as a hub for local craftspeople and eventually transformed into an employment centre for the disabled, which continues to foster and build on the traditional craft of corn husk and willow weaving. The skills were passed on by older basket-makers from Prekmurje and the wider surroundings.

Pomelaj, a rural development cooperative that operates at the Sabol homestead in Mala Polana, charged with preserving and passing on the basketmaking tradition. Initially, Pomelaj served as a hub for local craftspeople and eventually transformed into an employment centre for the disabled, which continues to foster and build on the traditional craft of corn husk and willow weaving.

Tanja Horvat is a seamstress by profession.When the Mura factory went bankrupt nine years ago she was offered an opportunity to work at Pomelaj, where she started to learn the art of basketmaking. Coming from the countryside she knew about corn husk weaving from her childhood, and she still remembers her neighbours and aunts weaving. She became acquainted with basket weaving basics in primary school
Then she came to Pomelaj, where she completed her training and passed the national vocational qualification in basket weaving. At Pomelaj she had a mentor who was retiring and passed her knowledge on to Tanja. This knowledge sharing continues to this day, with Tanja now teaching the young who find employment in Pomelaj. Now she mentors other employees at the cooperative. Tanja Horvat also runs workshops for children and adults at Pomelaj. They frequently organise basket weaving courses and their doors are always open. They take basket weaving presentations to other places around Slovenia as well.

Tanja and other Pomelaj employees (seven wea-vers) weave corn husks and rods. They use the domestic corn variety, flint, grown by the local farmers. Pomelaj staff pick the corn before it has fully matured to make sure the husks are good for weaving. The corn is stored in drying sheds to dry and afterwards is ground into flour, leaving some of it for seeds. The husks are peeled, sun-dried, packed in boxes and stored in the attic. Everything is done by hand. The day before weaving the husks are soaked and treated with sulphur to disinfect and bleach them. Afterwards they are aired and soaked again in warm water before the work begins. They take a wooden model, hammer in the nails and begin weaving.
They have a crochet hook to help them. The woven product is left in the sun or on a radiator overnight to dry. The next day they remove it from the model and make a handle to complete the basket. They have their own willow plantation to harvest rods for basket weaving. When the leaves fall off they cut, boil and peel the rods. They leave some to blossom in the spring and cut them off when they lose flowers. These rods are not boiled, and when they are peeled they stay white. Rods are soaked before weaving. They start at the base, weave around the spokes and make the border. The handle is added last.

Pomelaj’s main product is a woven basket bag. They began with traditional basket models and gradually started to develop their products. While working with different designers who have come up with new designs, they also develop their own products and continue to perfect the production process. In addition to corn husk basket bags they weave slippers, furniture elements, baskets and similar. They also make small seasonal figurines (bunnies, chicks, flowers). Rods are woven into baskets of all sizes, and into partition walls, shades and parasols, including those made to order. All their work is available at their own and other shops across Slovenia through commissioned sales arrangements.