The Painted Hive


The inspiration for The Painted Hive - Fall 2021 Story Collection is drawn from the vibrant painted bee hive traditions of Central Europe found in countries including: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia and Austria. Gretchen first learned about these European folk hive painting traditions from Ariella Daly in her Women's Beekeeping Apprenticeship, a year-long program offered in Sonoma County, CA. Beekeepers like Ariella and Samantha Graf are keeping these traditional practices alive by passing down this knowledge to others (learn more here>>) . 


Warre hive (left) and top bar hive (right) painted by Ariella Daly's students in the Women's Beekeeping Apprenticeship Program. Above: top bar hive tended by Ariella Daly and painted by students in her prior apprenticeship cohort. Photos by Gretchen Boyce, 2019.

The painted hives are often found grouped in apiaries and the painted panels serve the dual purposes of identifying the hive's owner, and blessing the bees with imagery of saints, the bible, folk tales, and protective symbols. Evidence of this folk art tradition extends back to at least the middle of the 18th century, and was most popular during the period from 1820-1880, prior to the development of commercial beekeeping practices at the turn of the 20th century.

Apiary in Robanov with painted hive panels. Photo Franc Sivic, courtesy of the Where the Bees are at Home On-Line, Slovenian Ethnography Museum Temporary Exhibition.

Beekeeping traditions are a rich part of Central Europe’s cultural heritage. The brightly painted beehives provide visual landmarks within the rural landscape and tangible evidence of this long-standing folk art tradition and the importance of beekeeping to the cultural heritage of Central Europe and beyond. The imagery of the painted hives often depict rural life or aspects of living folk traditions drawn from the Bible, folk tales, and satirical motifs.

The temptation of Eve, traditional Slovenian hive front.
Source: Jones, The Folk Art of Slovenian Hive Fronts.

Mary, Jesus and Joseph's flight to Egypt, traditional Slovenian hive front.
Source: Jones, The Folk Art of Slovenian Hive Fronts.

Examples of the satirical motifs include animals attending a hunter's funeral, two men fighting over a pair of pants, the Devil whetting a woman’s tongue, or the mischief that befalls a hunter as he falls asleep under a tree. These images symbolize leadership within the family, various roles played by individuals within their community, and tales of warning to encourage socially acceptable behaviors. 

Animals carrying a hunter to his funeral, traditional Slovenian hive panel, courtesy of the Where the Bees are at Home On-Line, Slovenian Ethnography Museum Temporary Exhibition.

The Devil tries to steal a pot, traditional Slovenian hive front.
Source: Jones, The Folk Art of Slovenian Hive Fronts.

Beekeepers hiving a swarm, traditional Slovenian hive front.
Source: Jones, The Folk Art of Slovenian Hive Fronts.

In 2021, Slovenia nominated beekeeping under UNESCO as a protected cultural heritage tradition, including the kranjiči or apiaries and hive painting traditions as culturally significant practices. A fascinating documentary, Honeyland, debuted in 2019 and follows the last female beehunter in Macedonia through her struggle to keep the wild hives she tends from exploitation by commercial beekeepers. Despite these acknowledgements of the importance of beekeeping traditions in Slovenia and Macedeonia, these practices are in threat of being lost unless they are passed down to new craftspeople and beekeepers. 

The Painted Hive - Fall 2021 Story Collection includes four colorways inspired by Slovenian folk art painted beehive panels. Each story collection includes four mini skeins  (each approx. 25g) or worsted weight 100% superwash wool milled in the US. To order the collection, please visit: 

Grassy Meadow -
The vibrant and variegated grass green has flecks of lime and earth; evoking meadows rich with bee forage, the setting for misadventure in many folk tales.  

Photo courtesy of Meg Pier, People Are Culture

Jester's Blush - This salmon pink has highlights of coral and mauve pays homage to the life lessons disguised as humor in many folk tales and satirical images. 

 Photo courtesy of Meg Pier, People Are Culture

Angel Blue - This royal peacock blue has subtle variegation and represents the biblical themes of Slovenian painted hives. 

 Photo courtesy of Meg Pier, People Are Culture

Devil Green - A dark hunter green with pops of teal blue and lime green, depicting the serpent-like creature that often provokes the country people  in the painted hive panels.

Photo courtesy of the Slovenian Ethnography Museum

We wanted to acknowledge the amazing work of Meg Pier and her blog People Are Culture. Special thanks to Meg for allowing us to include several of her images here, which served as inspiration for our color development. 

We hope that by raising awareness of the beekeeping traditions that inspired this season’s Story Collections, you may consider supporting the resurgence of traditional beekeeping methods by purchasing honey and products from beekeepers following bee-centric practices. Also check out: and 

Sources for more Information:

Copyright: Quill & Quiver Fiber, 2021. All Rights Reserved.

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