Czech folk art, though it can certainly be collectible and make a great souvenir, is imbued with cultural significance. Developed through the ages to beautify and incorporate pattern, color, and design into everyday objects, folk art from the Czech Republic reflects a style preserved through generations.
Some Czech folk art follows traditional handcrafting techniques, while other traditional arts, such as ceramics, may sometimes be factory produced. However, the traditional crafts from the Czech Republic described here have long local traditions with knowledge passed down through families and communities.
Let’s take a look at Czech folk art and what types you should look out for when you visit the Czech Republic. You’ll find a world bursting with color and creativity
- Types of Czech Folk Art and Traditional Crafts
- Where to Buy Czech Folk Art
- Where to See Czech Traditional Crafts
Types of Czech Folk Art and Traditional Crafts
Whether you’re looking for a gift for yourself or someone else, one of the following types of Czech folk art and traditional crafts may suit.
Czech Easter eggs become ubiquitous around Easter in the Czech Republic. If you visit the Easter market in Prague, you’ll see loads of them in every color and showcasing beautiful regional designs.
The most popular style of Czech Easter egg is the wax-resist or batik Easter egg. A pattern is placed on the egg with wax, and when the egg is dipped into dye, the wax “resists” the dye. Once the wax is removed, that portion of the egg remains free of dye. Expert egg artists can create colorful eggs by building on their designs between dye baths of different colors.
Scratched eggs can also be found in the Czech Republic. These eggs are dyed, and then a design – often floral – is scratched into the egg, revealing the color of the natural shell underneath.
Lacemaking has a tradition that dates back to the 17th century in the territory of what is today the Czech Republic. Vamberk, in East Bohemia, is the location most associated with its origins, but bobbin lace is not limited to this area, even though a tradition grew out of lace that was brought from Belgium and influenced local culture. The Lace Museum in Vamberk is a good place to view historical examples of this type of Czech lace!
Vamberk lace is so important to Czech heritage, it’s been put forward as a candidate for UNESCO’s list of intangible culture.
However, other parts of today’s Czech Republic have lace-making traditions that date to even earlier. In South Bohemia, lace-making began in the 15th century, and the Lace Festival is a part of Sedlice u Blatné’s lineup of annual events.
Puppets and puppetry have a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages in the Czech Republic’s region of Bohemia.
Though the first puppeteers in the Czech lands were probably from other nationalities, such as German or Dutch, puppetry was eventually claimed as a national art. Families cultivated this Czech folk art, staging traveling shows with their handmade puppets.
Puppetry continued to gain popularity through the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries through puppetry workshops, publications, and schools, which then led to professional theaters staging original puppet plays.
As the popularity of puppetry wanes, marionette- and puppet-making workshops cater to tourists who are charmed by the detail and personality of Czech puppets. Puppet-carving workshops are also available for those who want a hands-on experience.
Today, visitors can view a wide variety of Czech folk art puppets in shops and museums. Though they were difficult to make, they had to withstand the rigors of travel as well as use, so antique puppets have been able to survive until today.
Both specifically Czech puppets as well as those depicting popular characters can be found today.
The Pilsen Museum of Puppets is a great way to learn more about this important aspect of Czech fold art and culture. You can also visit the Museum of Puppet Art in Prague or the Museum of Czech Puppets and Circus in Prachatice.
Ceramics and Pottery
The Czech Republic has a significant tradition of ceramics, porcelain, and pottery, dating back centuries. This type of Czech folk art has long found its way into collections and on the dinner tables of the elite.
Lostice pottery, most often in the form of goblets, forms a part of historical record. These goblets, characterized by their bumpy texture, were produced for a couple of centuries during the Middle Ages. Now they serve as archeological artifacts that offer some evidence about life lived in Central Europe in the past.
Having been found in several castles, the goblets are typically associated with the noble classes. These goblets were popular and well-known, and even though they came from Lostice and the surrounding area, their use among the elite was so widespread, one even makes an appearance in a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
Lostice goblets’ uneven texture was sometimes decorated by gold. Though these goblets are no longer produced, they can be seen in museums and represent an early form of Czech pottery-making that put the town of Lostice on the map as a source for luxury ceramics.
Chodsko ceramics feature typical Czech folk art designs inspired by local costumes. They feature poppies and other flowers in bright colors, with either a white or black background. Blue-and-whit Chodsko ceramics are also produced.
Cibulak, or blue “onion” porcelain, is another example of Czech folk art ceramics. Produced in Dubi, the blue-on-white pattern was modeled off of porcelain from China.
Cibulak porcelain was produced by the Meissan company, but it developed independently and was then copied by other manufacturers. While some of the cobalt-blue designs are transferred with templates, other parts of the design are hand-painted. Artists who have worked on larger and more expensive pieces sign them with a mark, individualizing the pieces and increasing their value.
Though some aspects of making the porcelain are done with machines, other parts, such as forming roses, are done by hand.
Kunstat has a tradition of producing ceramics almost as far back as its founding in the 13th century. The residents quickly discovered the good-quality clay deposits in the area and began producing functional products.
As early as the 17th century, potters in Kunstat had already formed a guild. Kunstat’s pottery artisans continue to produce ceramics, and the September pottery fairs are a significant aspect of local culture.
Other Ceramic-making Traditions
The city of Levin advertises itself with 600 continuous years of ceramics production in Central Europe. Local potters are now attempting to revitalize this centuries-old tradition of wood-fired clay.
Pottery markets in Beroun attract people in droves. While the markets draw potters from all over the country, Beroun itself has a pottery tradition of white-on-red design that has been collected by royalty of the past.
Glass and Crystal
Bohemian glass and crystal have a long and illustrious tradition, with it adorning everything dining rooms to ballrooms in the form of chandeliers to the necks of fashionable women in the form of beads for jewelry.
In Hollywood, Czech glass was even used to imitate jewels in the first half of the 20th century, so convincing could it imitate the sparkle and shine of diamonds.
Prized for centuries for its high quality, relative durability, and beauty, Czech glass continues to live up to its name.
Be sure to note the difference between Czech glass and Czech crystal: Czech crystal should have a percentage of lead that is 24% or higher, and it will be weightier and more sparkling than regular glass. Etching and cutting enhance its qualities.
Visitors can invest in Czech glass and crystal, but they can also visit factories to see glass artisans at work.
Furthermore, a multitude of museums featuring Czech crystal and glass can be found throughout the country. One of the best known is the Museum of Glass and Jewelry in Jablonec nad Nisou.
Czech Wooden Toys
Czech wooden toys use classic techniques of woodworking to make simple, educational or entertaining toys.
Toys that roll on wheels or rock are typical as are puzzles and games.
These long-lasting, attractive, and sustainably produced toys make an enjoyable gift.
If you like toys, be sure to check out the Toy Museum at Prague Castle!
Modrotisk Block Printing
Another element of Czech culture transcribed into UNESCO is modrotisk indigo block printing, which has been practiced since the 16th century.
The technique involves dying a fabric blue and creating a design in white by using a paste that would resist the dye, applied by carved wooden blocks. Sometimes used in folk costumes, modrotisk may use blocks several centuries old as families pass on their art to the next generation.
Only two shops in the Czech Republic produce authentic modrotisk indigo block printing, and you can visit either.
Where to Buy Czech Folk Art
When you’re traveling through the Czech Republic, keep your eye out for stores selling traditional Czech crafts and Czech design. One good option includes Manufaktura.
However, if you’re looking for a specific type of Czech souvenir or gift, specialized shops selling crystal, puppets, or ceramics may offer better selection.
Furthermore, explore outdoor and seasonal markets. Czech Christmas markets – especially those in Old Town Prague – may be some of the best options. After all, many vendors come out during Christmas in the Czech Republic to sell to visitors who want to experience the country during the holidays.
Where to See Czech Traditional Crafts
Museums throughout the country offer a peek into the world of Czech handicrafts and traditional art. Ethnographic and open-air museums are one option, but museums dedicated to glass or puppets also welcome the curious, as indicated above.
- Ethnographic Museum of the National Museum in Prague
- Wallachian Open-Air Museum in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm
- Museum of West Bohemia in Pilsen
You may also be interested in the Kolovec Museum of Technology, Crafts, and Traditional Folk Ceramics, which has exhibitions, workshops, and demonstrations on a wide variety of crafts typical to the rural countryside of the past.