Vilnius changes skin much like a rapidly growing reptile. Former factories have been repurposed, making way for entire districts of lofts. In the most popular district of Vilnius, Naujamiestis, art factories taking on different forms are prospering: clubs, studios, modern Lithuanian design shops and boutiques. But Vilnius would not be Vilnius if even in the industrial landscape it didn’t add bright contrasts.
There is one place in Naujamiestis where miracles of wild nature blossom in the shadows of lofts. It’s a lush meadow hidden by small white building that once served as a printing house. This building is now home to a different type of printing studio, one that draws its inspiration directly from the meadow behind it. Kaupolė is the name chosen by artist Vitolda Latvelytė Stragiené, who creates unique textile prints
Traditionally, Kaupolė is a little bundle of Lithuanian meadow herbs collected on a midsummer night and used for the ceremonies of the ancient Baltic festival Kupolinės. Kaupolė was born out of a love for drawing, plants and textiles. “And out of wandering in a farmstead in the wild meadows,” adds the owner of the studio, Vitolda Latvelytė Stragienė.
A former professional in the field of medicine, Vitolda discovered her true self in Kaupolė, balancing between art and handicraft. She decorates Lithuanian fabrics with plant motifs using a rare linocut technology. She carefully draws every plant, cuts the form out of the linoleum and casts it on a special stamp. Fabrics adorned with these stamps become tablecloths, bags, cosmetic bags and even clothes.
Looking at the details characteristic of the artist’s work reveals that they are not just crafted on impulse, but produced with a meticulous passion and a deep creative awareness “Sometimes a flower just doesn’t let me go; it stays in my head long after I draw it,” confesses Vitolda. Her studio’s shelves are full of flower albums and books about flowers that also speak about going into fine details.
“Sustainability principles are also very important to me. So, I try to use domestic raw materials and aim for more naturalism in my creations,” explains the owner of Kaupolė. Her furoshiki works – beautifully patterned scraps of cloth used for wrapping presents or carrying things – reflect this focus on sustainability. Not only does the production of furoshiki allow Vitolda’s to express her admiration for this Japanese tradition, these subtle, refined forms also find their way to the hearts of Japanese buyers.
However, according to Vitolda, almost everything created by Kaupolė is very local: “Whether intentionally or not, all things Lithuanian inspire me the most. Maybe it’s a reflection of my subconciousness. Depictions of ethnic culture, Baltic motifs – I interpret them, try to find an application for them in the form of modern household goods.” That’s why Vitolda and her textile creations can be found not only in the evolving neighbourhood of lofts, but also at the Vilnius Kaziukas fair.
Kaziukas is a highly anticipated event for residents of Vilnius and foreigners alike, and also represents the onset of spring. Kaziukas or St. Casimir’s Fair takes place in the beginning of March when many craftspeople from all over Lithuania come to Vilnius and set up shop along the streets of the Old Town. This unique assembly also attracts crowds of fair-goers from across the country and the world.
The history of Kaziukas fair is more than four hundred years old, and the roots of this event are inspired by ethnic culture and traditional folk crafts. However, Kaupolė, which interprets this tradition in a modern way, has participated in Kaziukas fair for several years in a row now, and always finds a crowd of people who motivate her creative ideas.
In Vilnius this fair is the most important fair of the year full of contrasts: “Everybody fits in at Kaziukas. It is the holiday of Lithuania in which everything should be present. So, participants of the fair are of a wide range. There are creators of rather simple things, and producers of totally exceptional handmade products. Kaziukas is visited by lovers of this and that,” says Vitolda.