Collecting Croatian textiles
"I love the fact that peasants, sometimes looked down upon as simple people, created such sophisticated work."
Stjepan Vlahovich is a second generation Croatian-American whose Grandfather emigrated to the US from the Zumberak region of Croatia and settled in Cleveland. Mr. Vlahovich's interest in Croatian folk dress and textiles began during the eleven years he was a dancer and singer with Zivili, a Columbus-based ensemble that featured Croatian folk dances and songs in its repertoire. After retiring from Zivili, Mr. Vlahovich began collecting folk dress and textiles during annual trips to Croatia. He has visited there nineteen times.
Here's the more involved version of the story:
My interest in Croatian folk culture came from a desire to explore my family heritage. My Grandfather emigrated from the Zumberak region of Croatia to the United States in the late 19th century. He eventually settled in Cleveland, where my Father was born and raised. Although I have Croatian ancestry, I grew up in Washington, DC where I had virtually no contact with Croatian culture.
However, between my freshman and sophomore years at The Ohio State University, I visited Croatia for the first time. I was overwhelmed by the experience. After my return from that trip, I took as many college courses that related to Croatian history and literature as I could. By chance, I also took a folk dance class, which sparked an interest in folk dancing.
Several years after graduating from Ohio State, I became a dancer and singer with Zivili, a folk dance ensemble that was based in Columbus. The majority of Zivili's repertoire was from Croatia. I was with Zivili for eleven years and performed with them throughout Ohio and the Midwest, in New York City, at the Epcot Center, at the 1983 World's Fair in Knoxville, and in Croatia. Through my experience with Zivili, I had my first contact with Croatian folk dress and textiles.
In 1986, after retiring from Zivili, I began annual trips to Croatia. It was then that I started to assemble my collection of textiles. I started buying them because they were the most unusual and interesting things I saw in the market. I was attracted by their great beauty. I was drawn to their intricate designs, incredible use of color, and amazing variety.
My collection began very haphazardly. I just picked up the things I came across that attracted my attention. As my knowledge and interest evolved, I tried to be more systematic, seeking pieces from all over Croatia that represent the rich variety of materials, designs, and techniques used by Croatian women in their textile art. I love the fact that peasants, sometimes looked down upon as simple people, created such sophisticated work.
One thing I'd appreciate being known on your site is my interest in having exhibitions of materials from my collection at other places. (There have been three so far, all in Ohio.) As you will see when you receive the photos from Notre Dame College, I have collected some beautiful pieces that have a great deal of symbolic meaning. I would like for more people to be able to see and appreciate this wonderful Croatian textile artwork.
Let me know if you have any questions about this information. I look forward to chatting with you again some time.
A Croatian folk dress from Bizovac in Slavonija
If you are interested to see this extraordinary - ordinary collection, please contact Stjepan at, as he calls himself NarodMan@aol.com In my eyes, you are nothing but special. Because of people like you CROWN exist. Because of the sprits like yours, we have been able to rise above obvious. Thank you, and everybody please support Stjepan and invite him to your city with his exhibition. As soon as possible. CROWN will promote it all the way. The world is yours.