Everything in this world is changing, but it’s nice that some things are not. The people who have kept the secrets of their family’s craft for centuries are truly amazing. They throw ceramic ware the exact same way their ancestors did hundreds of years ago, and then fire it in a kiln with real fire, the exact same way their grandparents did. In Lithuanian villages, we can still find looms that our great-grandmothers used to weave their dowry. Today, ancient Baltic weaving patterns have taken on new meaning and a new life. Likewise, people still hang wooden crosses carved according to ancient tradition in their homes, still own carving of the Pensive Christ, and still stir jam on modern stoves with wooden spoons. Blacksmithing has always been an exceptional craft in Lithuania. Having earned respect, artisans now use their talented hands to decorate our homes and surroundings. You can see these crafts at the folk art fairs that are so popular in Lithuania, or you can learn them during educational programmes held by museums or the artisans themselves.
What a thrill to pick up a bowl that was just recently a piece of clay! Or to drink fragrant tea from a cup you made yourself. Adults equate kneading clay with meditation, while for kids it is a great lesson in Lithuanian crafts. In Dzūkija, Merkinė has long been known for its black ceramics, and there are still talented artisans in Kernavė as well. They won’t just tell you the story of one pot there – they’ll tell you the entire history of ceramics, and show you how to mould and throw pottery.
This educational programme is for people who think that towels are sold in the store. Programme participants are taught about the art of weaving, Lithuanian motifs, weaving techniques and fabrics. Obviously, the most interesting part is trying your own hand at weaving.
“Warm as a lamb” – an interesting activity where both children and adults can learn the most important things about sheep, what is sheared, and what is done with the wool. A tiny brooch, a necklace, a sauna hat, or felt boots – learn a new craft! Maybe you’ll like it? After all, every hobby has to start somewhere.
Maybe your first basket won’t come out perfect, but trying your hand at wicker weaving, like our ancestors used to do to make the long winter evenings a little bit shorter, is definitely worthwhile. As you strip the willow rods, you will hear stories about what weaving materials have been used since ancient times, how the willow rods are prepared for weaving, and what things can be made from them.
Have you ever felt what a real wax candle smells like? What a magically soothing aroma it emits? Candle makers will show you the very oldest method of candle making, and tell you about candle traditions and their significance in Lithuanian culture. And you can light the candles you make yourself at home or bring them back as souvenirs.
A straw garden used to be hung above the table where the family would gather three times a day. Created by hand, this delicate structure is believed to bring harmony, cosmic energy, and sacred tranquillity to the home. Straw garden workshops are available where you can learn the subtleties of their creation and decoration. And not just gardens, but also straw birds, garland, and stars that can be hung on a Christmas tree – you can make all that with your own two hands.
Curonian weathervanes are a unique part of the heritage of Lithuania’s coastal region, with details and ornaments from traditional fishing boats marked with symbols and meanings. You can take them and read them like a book – they reflect the story of the fisherman’s life. Attend a workshop to learn about why weathervanes came about, the subtleties of how they are made, and the meanings behind their colours and patterns.
Amber is the gold of the Baltic Sea. Each piece is unique, so each piece of amber jewellery is too, highlighting the personality of the person wearing it. Workshops are offered during which participants can make their own amber amulet or other piece of jewellery using ancient technology.
A traditional branch of Lithuanian folk art that unites faith with workmanship, cross-crafting (kryždirbystė) has been proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. This craft was never taught in special schools. The crosses were – and still are – made out of wood, metal and even stone by self-taught artisans. Learn about cross-crafting traditions and make your own cross that you can leave on the Hill of Crosses among the thousands of symbols of faith left by other people.
At the Plateliai Centre for Traditional Crafts, you can make your own carnival mask that you can wear during Užgavėnės (Fat Tuesday) – in Plateliai, this festival is celebrated every year with a bang and Užgavėnės customs are followed very faithfully. For example, they say that you simply must make a new mask every year, since your neighbours might recognise your old one!
You can also visit the Lėčynų Museum in Plateliai where you can see over 300 different traditional lėčyna (the Samogitian term for the Užgavėnės carnival mask).