Goldwork embroidery has been practiced around the world for the past 2000 years, to represent status and wealth. Various techniques have been found on royal and religious vestments and chronicled in images and paintings, from the great ancient cultures including Asia, Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Greece, to the courts and palaces of Europe. Around the 10th century, goldwork embroidery became highly developed in England for the church, royalty, and military. It was considered a fine art because few possessed the skill and patience required to work with the brittle threads.
Over the centuries different techniques have developed, including winding the metal around strands of hair, silk, cotton, animal gut, paper, or parchment. Although the original threads were truly flattened white or silver gold, over time many different types of thread have developed, including alloying the gold with different metals for increased strength and flexibility, using various metal and core materials, or today even utilizing technologies which have increased the thread’s durability and washability.
In Croatia, gold embroidery is called zlatovez. It has been particularly representative of Eastern Croatia since the 19th century, and is included on the list of Protected Intangible Cultural Heritage established by the Croatian Ministry of Culture. Zlatovez can be seen embellishing traditional costumes as well as articles for the church and the home.
There are two annual festivals which celebrate the rich craft traditions of Slavonija, and feature elaborate traditional costume with zlatovez. Đakovački vezovi (Đakovo Embroidery Festival) is held every year in July in Đakovo, and focuses on the original folklore of Slavonia, Baranja, western Syrmia, and other parts of Croatia. Featured are traditional costumes, dancing, hair styling, and food. Đakovo is also the home of a Lipizzaner farm, so the festival includes horse shows. Vinkovačke jeseni (Vinkovci Autumn) is held every September in Vinkovci. It is a large gathering of traditional national costumes and culture, and promotes local heritage through music.
The finest embroidery is done by hand, but today unsuspecting tourists will often find machine embroidery, which is of lesser quality because of the propensity of the machines to break the golden strands. We at DOMA Trading support and honor the true craftspeople who have learned their art from bakas and artisans, and have refined their skill over decades. They are not only producing beautiful, one-of-a-kind works of art, they are keeping their heritage alive.
Thank you to Mara Vakoš for her beautiful artwork which is featured on this page.