Various Latvian Handcrafts

As furniture in peasant homes was rarely decorated with carving, numerous possibilities opened up for folk painters to cover rustic chests of drawers and trunks (which could be used as makeshift beds) with colorful formalized plant designs. In the middle, there was generally a pot of flowers or a shrub in full blossom, with birds, solemn and motionless, arranged symmetrically on its branches. The painting was usually in two or three colors on a contrasting background.

Like the painters, folk metalworkers benefitted from the lack of carving on furniture. Forged details, which were a common and important aspect of furniture decoration, attest to the very high smithing standards among the Latvian peasantry.

Interesting examples of Latvian peasant ironware can be found among their candelabra, which were suspended from the ceiling as the interior's centerpiece. In the nineteenth century, they superseded the previously popular candlestick of simple yet attractive design.

Peasant smiths also made personal decorations, which were an integral element of national costumes. Buckles with chased or engraved ornaments were popular accessories for women's dresses. Metalwork and jewelry-making traditions have been carefully preserved in Latvia, therefore the contemporary ornaments have not lost their national flavor.

Pottery has been popular in Latvia from time immemorial. Heavy earthenware of archaic form and large size was made in the western and southern provinces, whereas in the north and east of the country variegated glazed wares of many different shapes and rich decorations were produced. Latvian pottery was known in Europe as far back as the second half of the nineteenth century, especially the work of Jekabs Dranda, an outstanding ceramic artist from Smiltene in northern Latvia. Flat decorative dishes from his wheel, often quite large, are remarkable for their splendid multicolored glazes and exquisite painted decorations consisting mostly of plant motifs.

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