Eugenia Wieczorek specialises in tatting aka frivolite lace, characteristic for Greater Poland. She learned the skills from her grandmother and later honed them at courses organized in Jarocin in Dom Nauczyciela. Gradually, she became an instructor of tatting, training more people interested in this art. She also worked with Cepelia Poznań. Since the 1980s, she has received many awards in local, national, and international contests. In 2013, she received the Oskar Kolberg Award. She is a member of Folk Artists’ Association and Stowarzyszenie Miłośników Kultury Ludowej w Potarzycy ( lit. Association of Enthusiasts of Traditional Culture in Potarzyca).
Excerpts from an interview held with the artist during field research conducted in preparation for the Summer School.
- My name is Eugenia Wieczorek, I live in Jarocin in Greater Poland. I was born in 1938 in Volhynia, in Dubno Raion, near Lutsk. […] In 1945 we arrived in Nowy Tomyśl county […] As far as tatting is concerned, I learned the basics under the guidance of my grandma after I graduated from university. And Grandma had learned it from one of the relatives of her niece. And she made it in a similar way that I do. This was my first work, I made it out of curiosity because I like to touch everything.
- When I started getting a pension, I attended classes in Dom Nauczyciela. […] They were presenting frame weaving and I really wanted to try my hand at that technique. And in the meantime, as I was learning to weave, a lady from Poznań came and she brought her tatting pieces. […] During the first class, since I already had some experience with a shuttle, I immediately caught on to what I needed to do.
- In general, tatting is light, delicate, pleasing to the eye, it might even be, etymologically, a small thing but it must meet these conditions. It’s meant to be…frivolous (Translator’s Note: this type of lace is also known as frivolite)
- We start with a shuttle. […] You need to string the threads around the shuttle, everything is made by hand. […] The best threads are those which are twisted well.[…] I thread them around the fingers, at first, the ladies are to do this to the very end so that it sticks better. And then I move the shuttle below, under the thread, the thread goes down, under the shuttle, like this. And now I tie all this […] a piece is formed from such small knots.
- This kind of lace requires a tremendous amount of work and if we do it from just any thread, it will come apart after washing it several times. I have several types of threads here. This is German cotton filet, German ones are the best. Size 80.
- Polish tatting has to be white or ecru because it was brought to Poland by nuns. Initially, it was made in monasteries, churches, and courts. It was white, or the colour of the chalice – beige. And because there were many farms here and a lot of the nuns came from the village and those girls brought this lace technique from the monasteries to their homes.
- The nuns showed the technique when they came. And you know, in large villages, the women used to organize and gather together, like they do, in associations. The farmers’ wives’ associations were preceded by small farmers’ wives’ associations. Because those weren’t rich farmers, nor peasants, just small farmers. And the lady who taught me the technique had herself learned it in one of the small farmers’ wives’ associations before the war.
- And speaking about our Jarocin. There was a lonely lady here, on my floor, she was sick […]. She said, “I didn’t admit it, but I used to make lace do before the war”. And just imagine, she was taken to the General Governorate in Germany and was supposed to work the fields. But when a German woman saw she was able to make lace, she was saved and only made tatting.
- What is tatting work like? I think it’s like any manual work. I say that “the mind thinks, hands perform, eyes help, but I make it using my heart”. And one fortuneteller, when I said that, told me, “Look here, I am a fortuneteller and I can tell, you put your soul into it”, and I replied, “Maybe it is my soul”.