The Blueprint of Central Europe

The Blueprint of Central Europe

Culture in Cloth

USA, Canada
2019
05
The Blueprint of Central Europe
Gothic structures, historical churches, and medieval towns of cobblestoned streets are not the only elements of Czech heritage to win protection from the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Bits of culture ranging from local puppetry to holiday traditions, and folk dance to falconry, have previously received recognition for their importance and cultural value.  
The latest piece of Intangible Cultural Heritage to join the list is the technique of modrotisk (literally meaning blueprint or blue-dying). How does it work?
 
Step 1: A secret recipe of special paste is applied to the cloth using hand-carved, sometimes 300-year-old wooden blocks.
 
Step 2: These blocks contain patterns of flowers and plants often found in
the surrounding regions, making the fabric a popular element of regional folk costumes.
 
Step 3: The cloth is finally dipped in deep indigo-blue dye, while the paste keeps the patterned areas a crisp, bright white in contrast.
 
The modrotisk technique has roots across the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, and Germany. The recent recognition is partially due to its danger of disappearing, with only a few family businesses maintaining such a labor-intensive, historically accurate technique passed down through generations.
 
There are two places in the Czech Republic keeping the tradition alive:  Danzinger Blueprint in the Moravian town of Olešnice and Strážnice Blueprint in the town of the same name. These family businesses with decades of generational knowledge also depend on Milan Bartoš and Jaroslav Plucha from Dvůr Králové nad Labem as two of the last craftsmen capable of producing or repairing the equipment for this process.
 
For a tour of the workshops, a unique souvenir, and an education on one of the threads connecting modern Czech society to its roots, head east to the region of Moravia to discover the iconic cloth printing process while it still lives.