Kashubian Snuff Containers

Does anybody need a “Tabakiera” ?

Story by:  Peter von Pazatka Lipinsky

In 2006, the annual mock battle between the Turkish army under Sultan Kara Mustafa and the Kashubs under the leadership of  Jan  III  Sobieski, King of Poland, commemorating the siege of the City of Vienna in 1683, was taken place again on the fairgrounds in the village of Brzezno - Szlacheckie, Poland.  The  performance was well attended and many people from the surrounding villages wore their traditional Kashubian costume. At the fairgrounds, there were several vendors who had tables set up,  to sell their wares, ranging from cotton candy, different foods, books, balloons and beverages. The book display got my attention and while I was looking at several books, I noted that one of the men standing next to me and dressed in a  fancy Kashubian vest took some sort of container out of his pocket. The container looked  small and cone shaped and also had some sort of silver ornament on the outside. The fellow proceeded to put something from this container on the back of his hand and sniff it. I remembered now that this must be nasal snuff,  that I had read about somewhere a long time ago.  This habit dates back to around the 16th century.  Later that day, I met my friend, Przemyslaw, on the fairgrounds and I asked him about the container the snuff was being kept in. My friend told me that these containers are specially made  out of cow horns, some are rather plain while other snuff  containers are richly decorated  with silver and sometimes even with some carvings. These snuff containers, are very prominent in the region of Kashubia, because of their reasonable cost and also because of being so unique. A friend of  Przemyslaws  had one of these snuff containers and I was able to have a  closer look.  Now here was something that would fit in my collection of Kashubian items back  home in Canada . So, over the next little while and before it was time to catch my plane back to Canada, I was able to locate and buy a few of these snuff containers. I needed to find out a lot more about these strange looking snuff containers and I realized that on my next visit to Poland,  I must give this item some more attention.

Snuff containers are usually made from one of the following materials;. silver, gold, copper, ivory,asd glass,  leather  and  wood ,  to name a few.  Now, several  years later , the opportunity arose to meet in person one of the master craftsmen, Mr.  Rudolf  Krecki,  who created these snuff containers or Tabakiera as they are called in Polish.  Driving about 50 km. south-west  from the City of Gdansk and just past the City of Kartusy , you will see on the left hand side of the  highway lined with huge  linden/lipca trees, a rather large sign  “WYROBY  Z  ROGU" with a workshop and a picture of a large Tabakiera. The workshop is located 150 meters off the highway.  At the shop, we met Mr. Rudolf Krecki, a very friendly and jovial gentleman who proudly shows us his collection of Tabakieras, which he has made over the years. Rudolf  tells us, that he retired about 15 years ago, and that is when he took up the hobby of making  Tabakieras.  A friend from a nearby village showed Rudolf how to get started.  To my dismay, I  find out that almost all of  the Tabakieras, which are on display in show cases in his office , are not for sale, but are part of Rudolf’s very own collection. But Rudolf always has a few of the Tabakieras for sale and I was able to buy a couple of very nice Tabakieras at a reasonable price.

A good craftsman will not reveal all of his trade secrets, but  Rudolf  told us  a few details how the Tabakieras are being made. Rudolf visits several abattoirs in nearby towns to select only the very best cow horns. Special attention has to be paid to size and colour of the horns. Most cow horns are black, but some are brown, yellow or multi coloured..  Nicely coloured cow horns are hard to find and Tabakieras made from these cow horns are  more expensive. Only the tips of the cow horns are used for the Tabakieras. Other portions of the cow horns or smaller horns can be used for other items such as powder horns, jewelry boxes etc. Your imagination will set the  limit, of what can be made out of cow horns. To clean the cow horns, they are boiled in a large kettle of water for 4 to 5  hours.  To shape the cow horn, the horn is be heated over a very hot coal fire.  Special tools are used to shape the horn into the desired shape of a Tabakiera.  Now that the cow horn  has taken shape, the surface has to be sanded first with coarse and later with fine  sandpaper . The final touch up job is polishing the Tabakiera, which is done with a electric buffer.  The end result is a Tabakiera with a smooth polished surface and as shiny as a piano.

Not all  Tabakieras look the same, as they come in different sizes, shapes and colours .  The two coloured Tabakieras are more expensive because the right colour combination is hard to find. Some Tabakieras are decorated with a  miniature design of a Silver Griffin. Rudolf gets all the silver work done by a qualified Gold Smith. Prices for one of  these Tabakieras can range from as low as $ 25.00  and up to several hundred  dollars  depending on  size,  amount of silver decorations and overall  craftsmanship. Mr. Rudolf  Krecki has customers all over the world.

 

You can get in touch with Mr. Rudolf Krecki at:

Rudolf  Krecki

83 - 324  Brodnica Gorna

Poland

Telephone : 600-428-134, (058)  684-54-51