Embroidery is one of the best achievements of Bulgarian folk art with its amazing colour combinations and patterns. In every part of Bulgaria there is a typical style of decoration and color combinations but typical features for all the country are the geometrical figures and the prevalence of the red. All the blankets, sheets and dresses were hand made of wool, cotton, linen. After the fabrics had been woven, the clothes were decorated and embroidered by hand. The threads could be woolen, cotton or silk.
The embroidering was mostly women’s occupations. By tradition, the young girls had to embroider all the garments and cloths for their marriage and with the embroidery they have expressed their dreams and hopes, their vision for the world. Generations of unknown women have embroidered, in pain or in joy, to create beauty in their homes.
The Bulgarian embroidery is a real masterpiece of craftwork.
Pottery is one of the oldest crafts of the people living in the Bulgarian lands since ancient time. It was influenced by the traditions of Ancient Greece ceramics and later mixed with various Slavic decorative elements. In the 9th and 10th centuries were manufactured the Preslav ceramics, well decorated and known until today, that have been used for many church interiors. The predominant colours were green, yellow and brown.
In the 19th century there were already several major ceramics centers in Bulgaria. One of the most famous is the Troyan ceramic school. The local masters have preserved the ancient Thracian and Slavic elements in the traditional pottery, have developed them and transformed in original tradition. The Troyan ceramic school is unique phenomenon in the national artistic culture and is still alive today. The Troyan pottery technique consists in letting drops, in white and brown, trickle down the pot surface. The main figures are concentric circles, rosettes, crosses, flowers, animals.
Pottery covered the whole range from kitchen utensils – pots, baking dishes, bowls, plates, jugs. Special-purpose pottery included the wedding wine and brandy vessels, ritual bowls as well as objects connected with Christian cults. The decoration depended on the shape and purpose of the piece. Wedding and ritual vessels had the richest decoration with multicoloured patterns and glazing. Some of them are genuine works of art, deeply connected with the folk beliefs and traditions in Bulgaria.
Bulgarian icons have a thousand year's history and many of them belong in the treasury of world art. Icon painting in Bulgaria must have originated officially with the adoption of Christianity in 865. Numerous churches and monasteries were built in the Bulgarian capitals. All these places of worship were decorated with murals and icons. Since then the Bulgarian icon, a symbol of the Christian cult and church ritual, has developed as a fundamental part of the art of the country. Preslav ceramic icons, the oldest Bulgarian icons found so far, were also very interesting examples of mediaeval Balkan art. The icon painting tradition was enriched in the 13th- 14th c. The few preserved specimens from the time like several double-faced icons are works of a high class and testify to the level of art in Bulgaria.
In the years of the Ottoman national and religious domination, the icon was the only link with the cultural traditions of the past. For the enslaved Balkan Christian peoples, religion was the consolidating factor in saving them from the assimilative policy of the conquerors. Interesting icons of the 15th-16th c. are preserved in Kremikovtsi Monastery and Bachkovo Monastery. An important centre of icon painting throughout the Ottoman rule was Nessebur.
In the eighteenth century there were established national schools of art in towns such as Samokov, Tryavna, Bansko - all with their own style characteristics and several generations of artists. These artists have transformed the strictly didactic painting into vital art. The harsh, severe tones gave way to bright colors. The Bulgarian icon painters were involved in the fate of the people and their struggle for independence of the Church and for political freedom. The figurative language of art was turned into an active factor for preserving the national spirit and culture.
Zahari Zograf is a name known to every Bulgarian as one of the greatest icon painters of the time. He created a new style in icon painting by introducing the portraying of ordinary people.
Bulgarian iconography left deep traces in the general development of the art of the other Eastern Orthodox peoples. It also takes a well-deserved place in European cultural history. Despite of the religious and mystical aspects of Bulgarian icons, left to us from the centuries, they reveal the purest aspects of the spiritual feelings of the Bulgarian people, their world of goodness and faith, their eternal striving towards perfection and freedom.
Here is a nice brochure you may download for further information - with plenty of nice photoes and some interesting information.