Wickerweaving Zagorščak

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Wickerwoven items that were originally produced in this technique have remained archetypes of sorts as they became listed under the UNESCO Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, turning them into a symbol of Lepoglava region where they originate from.
In attempt to protect and preserve this bodily knowledge Zagorščak family is actively involved in local and domestic educational programmes for demonstrating and passing on the skills of weaving natural bulrush on a loom, a tradition rooted in the region.

Zagorščak family has cultivated the material heritage of Croatian Zagorje for generations and represents the remaining wickerwork weavers. They have practiced and perfected a specific type of weaving with dried bulrush plants, particularly popular in their hometown of Kamenica where their workshop is based.

South-East region of the Croatian Zagorje has rich history of wickerwork craftsmanship and weaving with natural pliable plant materials such as bulrush, reed, willow branches, corn husk and other leaves. It is a traditional craft which most of the rural communities have been practicing for hundreds of years as a form of commodity exchange and also one of social interaction since the production of the pieces took place during winter months. Kamenica is a locality intertwined with this tangible cultural heritage and home of Stjepan Zagorščak who is hand fabricating wicker artifacts with noticeable aesthetic and ecologically sane value.
All products coming from Zagorščak workshop are weaved on a loom and are made from all natural materials which gives them unique visual style, texture and color dye. Representing simple utilitarian objects for common use, such as bags, baskets and other types of wicker items (logožari, rogože and špiceri), they managed to keep their original function throughout the years as useful everyday life aids. Traditional samples are called logožari and come in several shapes and sizes with characteristic braids and weaving structure.

Natural wicker material is well known for its strength and durability, as well as the high level of beauty and comfort that a master weaver can create. Ones used by Stjepan are whole thicknesses of bulrush plants, carefully retrieved from wetlands with ‘srpačice’, dried and stored for further processing, all done within the Zagorščak family, sometimes harvested miles away from Lepoglava county.
Bulrush is especially interesting for its distinct variable color hues that depend on the drying process, and are a favorable choice for many weavers due to its dense yet soft structure that is easily pliable. Other special characteristics of this material lie in its anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties, which is probably one of the reasons why its production was so widespread. It also acts as a thermal insulation and was commonly used indoors for various purposes (ex. bed spread, floor mat, wall covering and partitions).
Production of bulrush carriers and mats is done on a loom prijema with dampened material for easier manipulation. Weaver incorporates single stems into the pattern seamlessly, forming intricate textures. Crucial part for assembling is braiding in the handles that are weaved in simultaneously, and prepared prior to that on a separate tool called ručnica. Upon completion of the surface, material is cut out of the loom and hand stitched together on both sides, finished by sewing the top in preferred style: cut-off, with 2 or 26 steps.
Depending on the local customs and individual creativity of the weaver, cotton lining can be sewn in the insides of the bag to help protect the contents. Wooden, textile or leather straps and other decorative bands can also be added.

Traditional handicrafts fairs are Stjepan’s only promotional activity. They enable him to reach targeted market of customers in search of authentic produce of higher quality and to get in touch with those interested in redistributing his products abroad — he is continually working with German and Austrian crafts shops and fairs.
Models such as logožari, rogože and špiceri are widespread and most commonly in distribution, with different iterations possible when in collaboration with local designers he had experience in working with.