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Romanian folk art (Part 1)





Romanian folk art is a complex field, harmoniously combining the folk art tradition with a still vivid activity of some handicraft centres boasting an old tradition in many regions of this country. As an element of material and spiritual culture, folk art reflects the national specificity and has a deep-going social character, with a well defined role in striking the balance between what is useful and what is beautiful, between the material and aesthetic requirements.

The turning to account of the traditional elements endow Romanian folk art as a whole with the virtues of a valuable genuine creation, in which one can see the sense for what is beautiful, which is equally obvious in the harmonious proportions of the furniture, in the clear line and sober elegance of the pieces of garments, in the value of the embroidery, in the chromatic refinement of weaving and the beauty of the forms and ornaments of the ceramics and the delicate tracery of wood cutting, all of them bearing the imprint of the local zone specificity.

Being created in the course of centuries through the uninterrupted contribution of the numerous anonymous creators, folk art got the character of permanent continuity and of surprising variety, founded on a unitary fund.

The more and more marked interest of the contemporary world in the handmade things and especially in the development of the domestic and international tourism are reasons enough for the further continuation of folk art, which is meant to ensure the preservation of the traditional specificity and of the genuine character.

Ceramics and Pottery

Ceramics is one of the oldest handicrafts, dating as far back as the Neolithic Age, that is more than 6,000 years BC. We can admire the superb vessels made of ceramics of that time in the Romanian museums, which, then, in Romania's territory created a special civilization. Ceramic items distinguish themselves through the elegance of the forms and through the ornamentation. Traditional ceramics is shaped on the potter's wheel. It is usually baked in horizontal ovens through two techniques: through oxygenation and through the lack of oxygenation. As a consequence, they get ceramics in two colours: red and black. Folk ceramics gathers a number of traditional elements marked by the living conditions, but also by the evolution of the aesthetic sense.

In Moldavia, one can see much diversity of forms that can offer types belonging to the old Greek and Roman ceramics. Very appreciated are the black ceramic vessels made in the centres at Marginea din Suceava (black ceramics polished with stone) and Deleni, Iasi County (eastern Romania). In Maramures (northern Romania) Lapusul Romanesc is an area that is well-known for its ceramics, which can be regarded as a synthesis of the evolution of the forms of Romanian ceramics. Here one can admire black ceramic items as well as items made of brush painted ceramics.

Another pottery centre in Maramures is the one at Sacel, where people make unpolished red ceramics. In Transylvania too, centres that are well-known for the ceramic art are at Vama, Satu Mare County (northern Romania), Leheceni and Corund (richly ornamented enamelled ceramics). In Muntenia such centres are to be found at Musatesti (13 km away from Curtea de Arges), Valsanesti, Stroesti, Poienita, Obaga in the southern region of Oltenia. The most representative ceramics making centre in Romania is at Horezu, Valcea County (southern Romania), a centre with permanent ethnographic exhibitions and traditional fairs such as the Hurez Cock, which is organized every year (June 3-5), a fair that gathers craftsmen making folk ceramics all over Romania.

The decoration of clay vessels is a procedure that brings several techniques to the fore, which are different from one centre to another, and some simple instruments, but with much potential of plastic expression. But at Horezu there is a special concern for decorating vessels with polychrome enamels. The motifs applied on plates, mugs, pitchers bring to the fore millennia-old solar motifs such as the simple or double spiral, the six or eight-point star, the circle and the zigzag. The motifs specific to the centre of Horezu are geometrical, vegetal and zoomorphic. With the help of these decorative motifs the contemporary potters at Horezu make extremely varied compositions of much artistic beauty. Their plastic solutions are based on repetition, alternance and symmetry. As for the chromatic range, the centre at Horezu is defined by the colour of bricks, green and blue against a white-yellowish background.

At present the centre at Horezu is one of the oldest ceramics making centres in Valcea County. There are more than 15 families of potters that work various categories of pieces in a traditional manner, centring their entire activity on this millennia-old handicraft. The vessels made by them are a value landmark for the Valcea County and the Oltenia region, but also for the entire Romania.

The Cucuteni Culture, which is quite unique in Europe, is spread in Moldavia, north-eastern Muntenia, south-eastern Transylvania and Bessarabia and was characterized by very high quality ceramics, richly and variously painted. The Cucuteni ceramics had as its main characteristic the spiral decoration with numerous variants and combinations.

In the new ceramics, which is a creation both of the potters and of the artist ceramists, they continue the traditions of the centre in question as regards the style and the kind of ceramics, which are taken up and adapted to the products that are meant for the current requirements.