One of the highlights of my trip to Tallinn was my unexpected tour of the Ukrainian church and Ukrainian Cultural Center. The cultural center is located in a beautiful 14th century building located within the medieval walls of Tallinn’s Old Town.
The center includes a museum, which was created “to help preserve disappearing cultures.” The museum showcases Ukrainian arts and crafts, as well as exhibits from Estonia, Russia, and the United States.
The Grusbeke Tower, located about 25 meters from the center, now belongs to the center and has a collection of hand-made mechanical toys, as well as two wooden looms that are still used.
An integral part of the Ukrainian Cultural Center is the Labora Workshops. Medieval arts and crafts are taught and made with help of tools from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The center also promotes Ukrainian culture by offering workshops in making Ukrainian crafts.
A very interesting part of Labora is the Tallinn Paper Mill & Press, “designed to preserve vanishing crafts including papermaking, calligraphy, and bookmaking.”
Tallinn’s last mill that made paper by hand ceased operation in 1913, but now the art of a making paper by hand has been revived in Estonia. Today, the Tallinn Paper Mill & Press is the only fully functional handmade paper mill in Estonia.
The center also has a beautifully designed website, where you can read more about the center and projects and see some more photos.
On making something by hand, from the website:
“The simplest way to create a connection is to make something by hand. Find a craftsman, an artist, or anyone who knows how to use their hands. Befriend a carpenter who can teach you to shape wood. Study under a potter who understands the mystery of clay. Become a weaver’s apprentice to weave meaning back into your life. Meet a monk who will show your hands how to pray. Ask your grandmother to invite you into her kitchen. Get a neighbor to show you how her garden grows. Touch the world.
“The people who understand how our hands can work these wonderful changes are dying off. As their skills disappear, we begin to forget what food should taste like, what wood should feel like, what clay can become. Once these people are gone, we will no longer be able to hang on to our world. So we must give them the time that they need to teach us their gifts. Only then can we discover the magic that we’ve always held in our hands.”