Osijek, Slavonia

In 1993, Mara Vakoš started a workshop in Osijek, as she says, “with the aim of preserving, nurturing, and making folk handicrafts for the purpose of applying and affirming the cultural and traditional heritage of Slavonia and Baranja.” In 2013 she was granted a Certificate of Traditional Craft (Uvjerenje o tradicionalnom obrtu) from the Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts. She employs traditional craft techniques in making both useful items and souvenirs, in an effort to keep eastern Croatia’s heritage alive and to bring attention to the beautiful work that has been handed down from generation to generation.

All of her work is produced by hand using the old techniques. She practices all types of needlework, including colorful embroidery (vez), gold embroidery (zlatovez), openwork embroidery (šlinganje), and crochet (heklanje or kukičanja). She makes clothing and home goods from “domestic materials that are produced by old weaving techniques…[to] encourage the survival of old crafts.”

Mara’s style of zlatovez is a technique of hand embroidering “gold on paper,” a complex technique using two threads. Beads and sequins are added to create a brilliant dimensional effect. Her designs are inspired from motifs that she finds on scarfs, shawls, and aprons from traditional Slavonian folk costume. She then creates sparkling jewelry and accessories that can be worn on the most formal occasions. You can read more about the history of zlatovez here.

We at DOMA Trading are dedicated to the true craftspeople who are sharing their heritage with us. When you purchase a piece of Mara’s artwork, you are truly purchasing a piece of history, which has been crafted with techniques that have been passed down for generations.

Mara in her workshop ©2020 Mara Vakos

Mara Vakos zlatovez technique

Mara is devoted to the culture of Slavonia and Baranja, which is her inspiration. She wrote: 

“Osijek grad imao je gradske nošnje. Meni je inspiracija cijela Slavonija to jest sela gdje su se nosile narodne nošnje. Koje su jako bogate i raznolike…u Slavoniju se održavaju Đakovački vezovi ili Vinkovačke jeseni. To je bogastvo Hrvatske tu dođu iz cijele Hrvatske u izvornim narodnim nošnjama to je hrana za dušu dobijete puno ideja za radit.”

“The city of Osijek had city costumes. I am inspired by the whole of Slavonia, that is, the villages where folk costumes were worn. Which are very rich and diverse…in Slavonia there are Đakovački vezovi or Vinkovačke jeseni. This is the treasure of Croatia. They come from all over Croatia in original folk costumes. It is food for the soul.”

The two festivals that Mara mentions are the largest annual craft festivals in Slavonija. Đakovački vezovi (Đakovo Embroidery Festival) is held every year in July, and Vinkovačke jeseni (Vinkovci Autumn) is held every September.

Mara Vakos slinga
Mara Vakos embroidery

Mara has been hand-embroidering since 1993. We are featuring some of her stunning pieces of zlatovez in our store.

Doda Keramika, Handmade Ceramics

Rijeka, Istria-Kvarner

You can’t help but smile when you’re around Janja Šestan Diklić, or when you visit her home studio bustling with fanciful characters and brightly colored ceramic houses, flowers, birds, and butterflies.

Janja is the creator and owner of Doda Keramika ceramics studio. She initially studied civil engineering, and worked for 15 years in the field. However, judging by her books and the artwork around her home, it is evident she has always loved art. When she saw that there was a class in ceramics being offered locally, she tried it and was hooked. She followed her heart and started working in handmade ceramics full-time. 

Each whimsical creation comes from her imagination and is individually hand-formed. She enjoys trying new ideas, and showed me new projects on a shelf in her studio that were sitting out to dry so they could be fired in her kiln. After the forms come out of the kiln, Janja hand-paints them with colorful details, bringing tiny villages and polka-dot flowers to life. From start to finish, she said the process takes weeks. 

Janja has lived all her life in Rijeka, and loves being close to her family. She often walks with her husband, Đorđe, and their daughter, following the pathways that meander around the hills, climb up to the hilltop fortress of Trsat, and wind down to the busy Rijeka city center on the harbor. She says she can’t imagine living anywhere else. 

Janja Sestan Diklic, Artist from Rijeka
Ceramic art by Janja Sestan Diklic
Ceramic art by Janja Sestan Diklic

Janja’s ceramics are individually hand-formed, painted, and kiln-fired in her home studio in Rijeka, Croatia.

Artist Statement

Ne odustati od sna.

Od rođenja živim u malom prekrasnom gradiću, nalik bajci u Opatiji, smještenom u Hrvatskom primorju u Hrvatskoj. Djetinjstvo sam provela s bakom i djedom koji su me uvijek bodrili, djed da čitam, a baka je htjela da sviram glasovir, pohađam balet i recitacije. Sve sam to poslušno pohađala, ali najsretnija sam bila crtajući s mojim bojicama. Moja želja bila je pohađati likovnu akademiju, ali je nikada nisam uspjela upisati.

Da skratim priču, eto kako sam na kraju realizirala moj životni san.

Jednog dana moja majka donijela mi je članak iz novina o novo otvorenom studiju industrijskog dizajna i umjetnosti na arhitekturi u Veneciji, jer je znala da me to zanima. Članak sam s interesom pročitala i spremila ga u jednu ladicu, jer u tom trenutku moj život bio je ispunjen drugim obavezama.

Nakon izvjesnog vremena nešto mi je trebalo iz ladice u kojoj je bio spremljen novinski članak o studiju dizajna. Slučajno sam uhvatila kovertu iz koje je ispao na pod novinski članak. Taj trenutak promijenio mi je život. Upisala sam studij industrijskog dizajna u Veneciji i ono o čemu sam sanjala počela je biti stvarnost.

Usprkos zaprekama i problemima u životu, ne odustati od sna jer on se uvijek ostvari.

Don’t give up on your dreams.

Since I was born, I lived in a small, beautiful, fairytale-like town, Opatija, situated on the Croatian coast. I spent my childhood with my Grandmother and Grandfather who were always very supportive. My Grandfather had always encouraged me in reading and my Grandmother in piano playing, in attending ballet lessons and practicing recitations. I dutifully attended all the courses, but the happiest I was when I was drawing with my colored pencils. My life’s wish was to attend the Art Academy, but I didn’t succeed. 

To make the story shorter, this is how my life’s dream, after all, did become truth.

One day, my mother, knowing I was always interested in that, brought me a newspaper article about a newly-opened university course in industrial design and art in the School of Architecture, University of Venice. Although I read the article with the highest interest, I put it in a drawer, since my life at that moment was full of other duties.

After a while I was looking for something in my drawer, and suddenly the article about the course in industrial design fell out. That was the moment when my life changed. I started the Course in Industrial Design in Venice and all I was dreaming about started to become reality.

Despite all the obstacles and problems in life, don’t ever give up on your dream, it always becomes reality.

Sonja Jurkovic | Artist from Opatija © 2019 Sonja Jurkovic

DOMA Trading is fortunate to carry a line of Sonja’s designs, which we are currently offering in throw pillows. Inspired by historical and traditional objects from around the world, and informed by her education in industrial design in Italy, Sonja uses her own unique style to create new works of art to be enjoyed every day.

All products are printed and hand-sewn in the US or Mexico, and shipped direct from the US to US addresses.

Kožuh, Leathercraft

Vinkovci, Slavonia

Working with koža (leather) is an old craft in Slavonia and Baranja, and leather richly adorned with small mirrors and intricate detailing is part of the folk tradition. Stjepan Posavčević has been working with koža since he was 16 or 17 years old. Beginning in 1952, he studied and worked in the trade in Vinkovci, Đakova, and Osijek. After military service, he returned to Vinkovci to begin his own business, “Kožuh.”

Stjepan is proud to use only genuine leather with no plastic. He showed me how he individually punches the shapes from a die with a large wooden mallet. According to grandson Luka, his grandmother Ana also started working with the leather when she married Stjepan. Ana showed me how little round circles and flowers are carefully heated on a small burner to curl into button shapes. Then each tiny piece is hand-sewn into place. She also explained how she hand-weaves each leather cord. The tiny mirrors, which can be seen in traditional decorations throughout Croatia, are actual glass which Stjepan hand-cuts.

This lengthy process of preparing the skins, punching and cutting each shape, heating the tiny buttons, hand-cutting every piece of glass mirror, and hand-sewing and embroidering the complex designs, produces an exquisite and intricate work of art.

Stjepan sometimes incorporates decorative dukats into his designs. A dukat (Eng: ducat) is a silver or gold coin that was used for trade in Europe from the 12th to 20th centuries. Gold dukats were worn on women’s necklaces and headwear in Slavonian traditional dress to denote status, and today decorative dukats still adorn ceremonial costumes. 

After my delightful visit with Stjepan, Ana and family, I was in a museum in Slavonia and saw an old book protected in a glass showcase, which had a leather cover embellished with the same type of work that I had seen in Stjepan’s workshop. The art of production of Slavonian leather vests like those that Stjepan makes are included on the List of Protected Intangible Cultural Heritage, as established by the Croatian Ministry of Culture. We are honored to share Stjepan and Ana’s story with you, and to offer you the opportunity to own a bit of Slavonian heritage from true master craftspeople.

Stjepan and Ana Posavcevic, Slavonija
leatherwork, Stjepan Posavcevic
Stjepan Posavcevic in workshop, Slavonija

Stjepan is a master craftsman from Vinkovci, Slavonia, with a 60-year history working in traditional Slavonian leathercraft techniques, featuring leather “button” and flower detail work and hand-cut glass mirrors.

Valens Modno Pletivo, Fashion Knitwear

Vinkovci, Slavonia

As soon as I held the knits of Marija Subotić, the immediate thought that came to mind was luxurious. The rich texture, traditional colors, and indulgent weight create a feeling of rare quality.

Marija and her husband, Andrija, originally came from a small Slavonian village. Close to 50 years ago they moved to Vinkovci and opened their business, “Valens” (named after one of two Roman Emperor brothers who were born in Vinkovci). They started out making all kinds of knitwear for men and women—sweaters, dresses, shirts, pullovers, and skirts—which sold in major stores around then-Yugoslavia. 

Among their goods were traditional cardigan sweaters, called rekla or špencle, decorated with regional designs. Still in use today, the colors and patterns are said to go back to 1700, when Austria–Hungary established a military border after 150 years of rule by the Ottoman Turks; local residents were recruited for the military and dressed in their regional folk wear. You can often spot these sweater designs in photos of traditional Slavonian costumes. Among them is the traditional cherry design that is found on many of Marija and Andrija’s knit pieces, a pattern which also graces the colorful umbrellas at the outdoor market Tržnica Osijek.

Marija still creates the traditional cardigans for men, women, and children, as well as dresses and accessories, all from her home workshop. Her daughter, Andrijana, is an accomplished fashion designer and collaborates on new ideas based on the traditional designs. Andrijana started her own label, Etna Maar, 15 years ago; she opened a boutique on Ilica in Zagreb and exports her collection to Europe and America. Sharing a strong family bond, she chooses the knits produced by her parents as her primary material, then incorporates other fabrics and textures into her avant-garde designs. 

We are happy to bring you some select accessory pieces from Marija’s workshop. The time I spent there was as warm as one of her thick knit scarves, and I think you’ll agree her mix of modern and traditional—from lined crossbody bags to folkloric torbas—captures the spirit of Slavonia, past and present. 

Marija Subotic, Valens Fashion Knitwear
Marija Subotic Fashion Knitwear workshop
Knitwear of Marija Subotic

Marija’s beautiful knits are machine-knit and sewn in a family home workshop with a near-50-year tradition of fine knit production in Vinkovci, Slavonia.