Can Old-World Horezu Pottery Survive Modern Tastes?

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Sorin Giubega’s gramps was a potter. So was his father. And astatine 8 years old, Mr. Giubega said, helium started to play connected a pottery wheel, too.

Mr. Giubega, present 63, and his wife, Marieta Giubega, 48, are potters successful Horezu, Romania, a municipality successful the foothills of the Capatanii Mountains astir 3 hours by car from Bucharest.

Horezu is location to a assemblage of astir 50 artisans who marque a accepted benignant of ceramics with methods that person been practiced for much than 300 years. In 2012, Horezu pottery was recognized arsenic an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

Most potters successful Horezu, including the Giubegas, unrecorded connected Olari Street (“olari” means potters successful Romanian), wherever they enactment successful location studios. The artisans advertise their trade by hanging ceramic plates extracurricular their houses, immoderate of which person yards wherever they support roosters and pigs.


A country   decorated with wood   furnishings  and shelves afloat  of pottery and aged  photos. One portion   of furnishings  contains a mirror, successful  which a man’s reflection   is visible.
Sorin Giubega astatine his home, which is filled with ceramics made by him and his ancestors.

On a Monday day successful aboriginal May, Mr. Giubega, who was wearing a clay-caked apron, showed disconnected a support of ceramic chromatic pots and jam jars that his gramps had made successful the 1920s.

“This is the communicative of my life!” said Mr. Giubega, who was named a Living Human Treasure by Romania’s Ministry of Culture successful 2021.

Artisans successful Horezu enactment year-round, and the ceramics are made by 2 potters with chiseled roles. Modelers, who are typically men, signifier clay into pieces. Decorators, who are typically women, overgarment the pieces utilizing ancestral motifs that see spirals, waves, spider webs, roosters, serpents, food and an arboreal plan known arsenic the histrion of life, which is dotted with apples.


The potter Constantin Biscu works astatine a footwear instrumentality connected which helium said helium tin marque up to 300 pieces a day.CreditCredit...


Photos bent successful the the workspace of joined potters Constantin and Georgeta Popa.


Instruments made with an ox horn and quills from goose oregon duck feathers are utilized to gully definite designs and to use paints.


Mr. Biscu makes pieces utilizing clay that comes from world extracted from a elevation successful Horezu.

“We are each doing the aforesaid thing, but we each person our ain style,” said Aida Frigura, 44, a potter successful Horezu who specializes successful decorating. “It’s similar handwriting.”

Many modelers and decorators, similar the Giubegas, are joined couples. Constantin Biscu, 49, and his wife, Mihaela Biscu, 42, marque pottery astatine their location connected Olari Street, wherever Mr. Biscu works astatine a footwear instrumentality connected which helium tin marque up to 300 pieces successful a day, helium said.

“It’s hard, it’s dirty,” Mr. Biscu said of the clammy grey clay that helium and others use, which customarily comes from world extracted from a elevation successful Horezu. Many potters’ families person owned parcels of the elevation for generations.


Ms. Popa with immoderate of the ceramics made by her and her husband.

Decorators besides enactment astatine wheels and with specialized tools, similar 1 instrumentality that resembles a fountain pen. It is made with an ox horn and quills from goose oregon duck feathers, and it is utilized to gully definite designs and to use paints, which are typically muted hues of green, blue, ivory, reddish and brown. Potters formulate their ain paints utilizing copper and cobalt powders, arsenic good arsenic minerals recovered successful the area.

To make intricate patterns specified arsenic the spider web, decorators usage 2 different tools: a brushwood with bristles made of feline whiskers oregon boar hair, and a twig with a metallic pin connected 1 end.

Once pieces are decorated and afloat dried, they are loaded into a kiln and fired for hours. After that, they are glazed and fired again.


Decorators similar Ms. Popa overgarment pottery with respective accepted designs, including the spiral.CreditCredit...

This month, galore of the potters successful Horezu volition showcase and merchantability their wares astatine 2 people creation fairs successful Romania.

The first, the Cocoșul de Hurez, oregon Rooster of Horezu, is simply a section ceramics just named for the vertebrate that residents of the municipality spot arsenic symbolic of the home. The second, the Cucuteni 5000, is simply a nationalist ceramics just that takes spot successful Iasi, immoderate 8 hours by car from Horezu. It is named for the Cucuteni people, who, astir 5000 B.C., started to marque decorated pottery successful what is present Romania.

In caller years, arsenic interest successful ceramics has grown, pottery from Horezu has started to look astatine much trendy design-oriented retailers astir the world, including Lost & Found, successful Los Angeles; FindersKeepers, successful Copenhagen; International Wardrobe, successful Berlin; Cabana, successful Milan; and Casa De Folklore, successful London.

“Demand is truly precocious astatine the moment,” Alice Munteanu, the Romanian-born proprietor of Casa De Folklore, said connected a video call. She precocious sold tableware made successful Horezu to the owners of Clover, a edifice successful Paris. Ms. Munteanu said the décor manufacture is fond of artisanal enactment close now, adding that if it’s “obscure” — she utilized aerial quotes — that was adjacent better.



Herle Jarlgaard, an proprietor of FindersKeepers, archetypal encountered the pottery successful 2021 astatine a flea marketplace successful Italy, wherever she recovered a sheet painted with trippy marbled rings and dots on the rim. On its underside was the connection “Horezu.”

“Whoa!” Ms. Jarlgaard, 35, recalled reasoning aft seeing the plate.

When she tried to interaction potters successful Horezu, Ms. Jarlgaard had a hard clip astatine first. She yet connected with Maria Stefanescu, a decorator, via the Instagram account that Ms. Stefanescu’s son, a constabulary serviceman successful Bucharest, had created to beforehand his mother’s work.

FindersKeepers has since started to bargain ceramics wholesale from Ms. Stefanescu, a decorator who works with a modeler she is not related to. The retailer, which buys hundreds of pieces astatine a time, has paid her astir $50,000 for its orders to date, Ms. Jarlgaard said.


Florin Frigura is 1 of the potters successful Horezu who inactive uses a wood-fired kiln.

At FindersKeepers, smaller ceramics outgo astir $25, and larger pieces astir $75. The pottery is sent to Copenhagen by truck. “I get precise anxious erstwhile the orders travel,” Ms. Stefanescu said. “I don’t sleep!”

Ms. Stefanescu, who said she tin decorate up to 50 pieces a day, could not estimation her overhead costs to marque idiosyncratic ceramics. She said that her biggest expenses see energy for her 2 kilns and the hourly wage she pays the modeler she works with. Like different potters, Ms. Stefanescu offsets household expenses by increasing vegetables and raising animals to eat.

UNESCO’s designation of Horezu pottery arsenic an intangible taste practice was a arrogant infinitesimal for Romania, said Virgil Nitulescu, the manager of the Museum of the Romanian Peasant successful Bucharest. Corina Mihaescu, an anthropologist astatine the Institute of Ethnography and Folklore successful Bucharest, said the UNESCO designation has led much young radical to instrumentality up the craft.

To support the designation, a state-of-the-craft study indispensable beryllium submitted each six years to UNESCO. The study explains, among different things, what measures person been taken to support the contented of Horezu pottery live and what tools and techniques the potters are using.



Dr. Mihaescu produced the astir caller state-of-the-craft report, which was submitted past twelvemonth by Romania’s Ministry of Culture. She said determination are ever concerns astir however to clasp the UNESCO designation — and support the integrity of the pottery contented — successful the look of modern influences.

To comply with European regulations limiting the usage of dense metals similar pb and cadmium successful glazes for ceramics that whitethorn travel successful interaction with food, galore potters present usage electrical kilns alternatively of wood-burning ones. The electrical kilns tin much reliably scope the higher temperatures — astir 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit — indispensable to occurrence food-safe glazes.

Other potters successful Horezu person begun to usage ready-made clay alternatively of preparing their own. And definite decorators person started to overgarment the pottery successful unconventional motifs and colors; Ms. Stefanescu, for instance, has utilized agleam reddish arsenic good arsenic yellowish and pink. Some of the newer designs are requested by vendors extracurricular Romania, galore of whom thin to debar ancestral motifs featuring animals and similar bolder and monochrome palettes.

“We say, ‘Our client, our master,’ but I person last say,” Ms. Stefanescu said. Of incorporating atypical colors into her pieces, she added, “I similar to effort caller things.”


Herle Jarlgaard, left, an proprietor of the retailer FindersKeepers, sells ceramics made by Ms. Stefanescu, right.

Constantin Popa, 62, who makes pottery successful Horezu with his wife, Georgeta Popa, 57, said they effort to fulfill clients’ wishes arsenic overmuch arsenic possible. But according to him, coating pieces successful saturated colors has “nothing to bash with Horezu.”

Tim Curtis, the main of UNESCO’s intangible taste practice program, said successful an email that the designation has been withdrawn lone doubly in the 20 years since the bureau started to contented it, and that neither clip was for factors related to the modernization of procedures oregon design. He added that the designation takes into relationship the changes that communities tin marque to practices.

There are plans to unfastened the Olari Cultural Center, a caller instauration connected Olari Street, successful September. It volition showcase Horezu ceramics, big conferences and contiguous demonstrations by potters.

The taste halfway was paid for by the municipality of Horezu and the Romanian government. Daniela Ogrezeanu, a spokeswoman for Mayor Nicolae Sardarescu of Horezu, described it successful an email arsenic a mode to bring much attraction to the pottery and its makers by driving tourists to the thoroughfare wherever galore unrecorded and work.

But immoderate residents of Horezu are disquieted visitors won’t marque it to the center. Olari Street is astir a 10-minute thrust from the entranceway to town, which is crowded with souvenir shops. Many hawk ceramics from Bulgaria that tourists mistake for section pottery, said Laurentiu Pietraru, 52, a potter and store proprietor successful Horezu who sells ceramics made successful the municipality for astir $2 to $54.

“That’s wherefore I statement everything,” said Mr. Pietraru, whose wife, Nicoleta Pietraru, 47, is simply a fifth-generation potter.


At Ms. Stefanescu’s home, pottery covers tables, walls and ceilings.

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