The Craftsman's Competition is an event that has been held at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum ETAR for decades. It took place for the first time in 1981 to commemorate the 1300-year anniversary of the founding of the Bulgarian state. The competition recreates a "wager" between the best master artisans in a definite craft who "pit their craftsmanship against each other" over the course of several days.
In 2016, the Craftsman's Competition at the Ethnographic Open-Air Museum ETAR will start on the 2nd of September at 1:30 p.m. and it will be dedicated to the craft of tablet weaving of belts.
According to the regulations of the competition the participants are expected to craft two articles. One of them is compulsory – an exact replica of a tablet woven belt. The other article has to be chosen by the competitors themselves. The results of the contest will be announced at the traditional "Master's Evening", which this year will take place on the 5th of September. The winner will receive the grand prize "Silver Cowbell" and the right to set up his/her own exhibition-bazaar at the Ethnographic Open – Air Museum ETAR during the following year.
The craft "Tablet Weaving of Belts" has been proclaimed one of the masterpieces of the Bulgarian intangible cultural heritage.
The technique of tablet weaving of belts has been preserved to this day and even the ancient Egyptians were familiar with it. It is not certain when this craft has appeared in Bulgaria but the population on our lands practice even to this day specific weaving techniques, used in the Middle Ages.
Tablet woven belts are most common in the regions of Sofia, Pleven, Svishtov, Nikopol, Lovech, Sevlievo and Shumen. They are an integral part of the traditional Bulgarian costume. Their function is not only to support clothing, but also to serve as decoration. They were made as dowry or as a gift from the bride for the groom, the maid of honor, the brother-in-law and the matchmakers. Some belts feature the names of the newlywed couple woven into the fabric.
Tablet woven belts are among the most complicated and difficult-to-make elements of the traditional Bulgarian costume.
The tablets are 10 cm square boards with four small holes in the corners where the threads of the warp are attached. They are stretched and tied at both ends to a piece of wood or a beam and later on - to a specially designed loom.
The weaving is done by turning the tablets, which stand in parallel, while the single-color weft is passed through the opening by hand and then driven in with a wooden knife. The coloring appears when the multicolored warp is threaded. The difficulty lies in the process of weaving together the weft and the warp in order to produce the desired ornament.
The width of a tablet woven belt could vary between 5 cm and 10 cm while the length could be between 2 and 3 meters. The belt can be finished off with fringes or tassels.
The belts from the region of Sofia feature brighter and lighter colors while darker colors like black, dark red and dark green are predominantly used in Northern Bulgaria. The motifs could be plant or geometric shapes.