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A piece of local history

  • 2013-05-29
  • By TBT Staff

BLACKSMITH’S COLLECTION : Girl with Yoke. Dionyzas Varkalis’ collection.

KLAIPEDA - Dionyzas Varkalis is often called the living legend of Klaipeda. Restorer, master of amber, founder of the Blacksmithing Museum, and public-spirited citizen of the port has been living in Klaipeda since 1949. Metal has been drawing him in since his childhood. As a child he could spend days in the blacksmith shop watching how hot iron turned into different articles. By a strange twist of fate, however, Varkalis gave his 20 years of life to the sea. Even though the path of life did not lead him to art, the many-sided work of Varkalis is connected to art, preservation of cultural and art heritage of the Klaipeda region while restoration of objects of applied art and molding of architectural metal details have become daily work for the master.

For many years Varkalis has been collecting ceramic and metal articles – witnesses of everyday life of the Klaipeda region population. After World War II, when the political system changed, all those things seemed to be worthless. They were simply thrown away as a new everyday Soviet life was built. Only later did some understand that those objects might be a potential profit, so they tore off and took away whatever had been left: door locks, door handles, door bells with doors or without them, wrought iron bars, and more. For others, both everyday objects and art objects used for interior decoration were a priceless part of cultural history of the region, which underwent tragic transformations. Varkalis as an ardent patriot of the region was the first to understand this point.

The restored clocks from his collection have complemented the exhibition of the Watch and Clock Museum of the Lithuanian Art Museum. Old blacksmithing tools and ironware, wrought iron grave fences from the destroyed old town cemetery, which were saved from the fate of scrap metal, gave birth to the Blacksmithing Museum, the branch of the History Museum of Lithuania Minor where Varkalis currently works putting a lot of his effort into education of children and young people, and by promoting old crafts and the cultural heritage of the region.

Varkalis gave the rich collection of the fine metal and ceramic articles, which were common in the region of Klaipeda from the 19th and the early 20th centuries, over to the Lithuanian Art Museum in 1988. It was displayed several times at the Pranas Domsaitis gallery. In recent years the growing interest in the past of Lithuania Minor, this region of Klaipeda, prompted the holding of a standing exhibition of the collection.

China and faience tableware, bronze and silver figurines, medals, candle holders, vases, cutlery and table decorations testify to the everyday life of the residents of Klaipeda and the entire coastal region and reflect the aesthetic taste of middle-class and the common citizen. Even such functional objects as door handles, cabinet handles, fastenings speak volumes of the times when everyday objects had to be both durable and beautiful. Amulets unique to fishermen and sailors reveal the special nature of the port.

A significant portion of ceramic articles – cups, plates, saucers, and different souvenirs – are decorated with the views of the town and the region of Klaipeda, or are marked with the inscriptions of former restaurants, inns and hotels.
Varkalis’ collection has an undeniable artistic value. Ceramic articles bear the marks of the famous European china and faience manufacturers: Francis Gardner and M. S. Kuznetsov (Russia), Wedgwood (England), Meissen, Altwasser, Ilmenau, Tiefenfurt, Rosenthal (Germany), and others. Bronze figurines, candle holders, and cutlery were also created by artists and craftsmen from different European countries. The exhibit of the collection reflects the predominant styles of European art of the 19th to the early 20th centuries: Empire, Biedermeier, Historicism, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco. Looking at them gives the feeling of traveling in time.

Exhibition will be held through June 16. For additional information please visit: www.ldm.lt