dinsdag 23 februari 2010

Secrets of Riga

A Latvian legend tells that every 100 years the devil rears its head
from the waters around the city of Riga and asks whether the city is ‘ready’ yet and when the answer would be ‘yes’ then this over 900 years old capital would be doomed to sink in the river Daugava . Riga is not yet ‘ready’, and the devil can plunge back into the water, saving this historical city for at least another 100 years as the teddy is a complete new phenomenon in Latvia, yet certainly ‘ready’ to introduce itself to this Baltic country. Of course the Latvians are familiar with the brown bear, inhabitant of the dense forests of the country, but the huggable proof, irresistible, and never dangerous version, called ‘teddy’ has only recently made his entrée in the capital spreading his contagious attraction.

It is midst December and Hanseatic town Riga looks as a setting in a fairy-tale with the illumination of the Christmas decorations. People are tucked away in warm coats, fluffy caps and struggle with shawls to protect themselves against the cold wind. Three churches and the remarkable zeppelin shape pavilions of the famous Central Market dominate the skyline. And just behind this huge building of the market the ‘Spikeri’ is located. In the old days this block of red brick stone warehouses served as storehouses for the market and, with the help of the UNESCO World cultural heritage, it is completely restored in the old style. Since 2007 these historical warehouses now serve as a keynote for creating new recreation and visiting place in the very heart of Riga. The remarkable buildings house trendy cafes, galleries, arts workshops and cultural facilities. Thus the perfect entourage for the Teddy and Dolls Museum owned by Inara Liepa, which recently celebrated its first anniversary. With the support of her multi talented husband Uldis and daugter Santa, here Inara realized her long cherished dream.
After the independency of Latvia in 1991 people were ready for new impulses and got lots of inspiration. Encouraged by her father who had always been collecting antiques and ‘brocantes’, Inara opened the first Dolls and Toy shop in Riga at that time. During a visit at Finland she gained more knowledge about toys of the old world in museums: here she found the source of inspiration to open her own museum. And, only a couple of years ago, attending an International Russian teddy show, Inara learned about the popularity of the Teddy and fell in love. Her suitcase protruded of the numerous books, magazines and patterns of the furry friend. And here she also became friends with Russian bear-artist Natasja Kataeva, founder of the first Russian Teddy Bear Assocation in Perm. It was Natasja who persuaded Inara to organize a teddy exhibition and workshop in Riga. The Master class, which Natasja performed in winter 2008 bore fruit and her enthusiastic students gained unconditional love for the teddy. They found a new hobby and got ambitious to execute their own creations. Materials and fabrics for doing so are not easy on hand, and the students are certainly still pioneering in finding the right and the best sources. Solvita Baudele was one of the eager students. Being a collector of old teddies she opened her heart for the teddy a long time ago and it was a pleasant surprise to her that she is now being able to enlarge her collection with her own ideas. She gives away her secret addresses where she finds the materials for executing them. ‘Lenta’ is a typical historical factory outlet, which is located out of the centre. Here you will find thousands of ribbons plus strands of cotton and wool. The proud owner still uses the counting frame for making out the total. Funny enough she prefers the frame to all modern devises. The Audumu Supermarket is a little paradise when it comes to imitation fur, cheerful fabrics, buttons and beads, all kinds of threads, but also plastic animal eyes and joints. Santa Liepa, daughter of Inara, displays her bears for the first time in this years show. Motivated by her mothers enthusiasm she decided to design something unusual, perhaps even eccentric as she holds on to her own taste and style. She especially designs her creations for her own age group through which she is inspired at the same time. Her black-white Rock Bears are mainly made from imitation leather, velvet and are decorated with every little item she finds. Mohair is too expensive and not easy to get and using these fabrics Santa gets the freedom in designing, which she is striving for.
This year’s exhibition in the Spikeri has been realized with the support of the Latvian Designer’s Society and Artist’s Union of Latvia. Teddies as well as artists dolls were nicely displayed under the old wooden beams of the attic, the ideal atmosphere were the teddy flourishes at his best. Please do not tell the devil where to find the treasures, as the teddy is not ‘ready’ yet.

Till next time,

Anna Koetse

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