For the last few years I’ve been doing volunteer work, helping an art foundation
and school in a very poor area of Hungary. The primary goal of the art school of
Igazgyöngy Foundation is to provide extracurricular art education to children
under 16 in the area. They give classes in six different villages to more than 600
children, many of whom are underprivileged (mostly gipsies). Their art
educational achievements are well known in Hungary, and are becoming
appreciated abroad as well.
However, Nóra Ritók, founder and leader of the Foundation, has come to realize
that in spite of their achievements, the students will not have better futures ahead
of them if their families continue to live in miserable conditions. So the
Foundation started to focus on the parents as well. They started a „social
l school” experiment in one of the most unfortunate villages, Told, where most of
the people have no jobs or income.
Nóra and her colleagues teach unemployed
parents handcrafts – they started with
embroidery, now they do wodworking,
gardening and making preserves as well.
and making preserves.
I joined this endeavour in 2010; at first I did
summer kite workshops with the children, then I
started to teach their parents wood block printing
in the Japanes e moku hanga style. They make the
printing blocks based on the children's drawings
(as they do with the embroidery), then we make
prints on Japanese paper or fabric to decorate
paper kites, shopping bags or other objects that
can be sold. These products are then put on sale
on the Szuno webshop. ("Szuno" means "dream"
in the gypsies' language.)
Later I also in troduced t hem to the Asian
In 2012 we founded the Told Glass Icon
Painting Workshop.. Unemployed parents
started learning the glass icon
("hinterglass") technique, which had been
popular i n the 19th century , especially
in sma ll villages. Such sacred objects were
usually strongly rooted in traditions - o riginality
and a “personal style” were not required to
create them, yet at the same time the painting
of these pictures demanded great concentration.
This activity proved to be rather suitable for the
grownups. Most of the model s for the glass
icons came from the Ethnog raphical