Painted joinery has a particularly rich and long history in Transylvania. Joinery is a type of carpentry that does not require the use of nails or screws to fit wooden joints together. According to Klára K. Csillery, author of Hungarian Village Furniture, the “striking feature” in Transylvanian painted joinery “is not so much the peculiarities of local schools and individual pieces as rather the continuity of a single tradition, in form and decoration, through several centuries” (67).
This ornately painted bed is exemplary of Sütő’s inventive paint-making techniques. Photo by Kylie Shryock
Sütő enhances his work by making and mixing his own paints with his family’s ancient methods. “In my works I use the special techniques and paint recipes that survived for hundreds of years in my family. For surface treatment as adhesive, I use the pounce when blending the paint, and the cheese-curd glue is also homemade.”
Sütő collects the pigments that he needs for his paints from the Carpathian Mountains surrounding Transylvania. He develops new colors regularly, experimenting with different materials and pigments. Most recently, Sütő developed a shade of yellow, using pigments from bee pollen.
An expertly carved and painted clock hangs proudly at Sütő’s festival booth. Photo by Tasha Sandoval
As a wood-carver, Sütő is not limited to one simple tool. “I use chisel and knife,” said Sütő of his several craft techniques. Ranging from large traditional gyulash spoons to delicate jewelry chests with intricate floral designs, Sütő’s carvings demonstrate knowledge of traditional motifs as well as individual artistic skill.
Carving can take various forms. In Transylvania, decorated furniture is typically chip-carved. Wedge-shaped incisions called ékes make the distinct narrow leaves and tulip motifs of the region possible. The motifs reflect the “interlace rosette style” of the Magyars (Csillery, 25).
Sütő carefully carves a tulip motif on a small wooden box in order to demonstrate his knife-carving. Photo by Tasha Sandoval