How did the idea of the Made With Love Romania project come about?
In January I went to Paris and in a concept store in the central area I saw a lot of kilim rugs made in Turkey and Asia. Some of them resembled the old ones I had seen as a child bohemian floral carpets and those with geometric motifs specially. This was a a first sparkle, I knew what beautiful carpets were made in Romania and I was somewhat upset that this craft was covered with dust. A second sparkle was given by the reaction of the people who crossed my threshold. I had in my apartment in Bucharest for many years the carpet made by mygrandmother from my mother,side integrated in a modern decor. I felt that it gives authenticity, it personalizes my space. This is practically how it started, from my personal experience with the integration of Romanian into modern, from people's reaction, to the feeling that ours are even more beautiful, seeing handmade carpets in other parts of the world, beautifully displayed in shop windows in Paris.
Did you grow up seeing how carpets are woven, did you appreciate them since childhood? Were you attracted to weaving?
I have loved it since I was a child, I was fascinated to watch my grandmother weaving. He would give me wool to put on the shuttle or other light tasks. I then moved to my parents and later I went to high school in Craiova and I was no longer in contact with this craft which, unfortunately, was not practiced long after that. When I moved to Bucharest "to my house" it came naturally to put in my house the carpet woven by my grandmother, which I still have at this moment. In fact, now I even have two and I chose the rest of the pieces in the house to match them and the dowry box from the other grandmother, from my father.
Where is your grandmother from? Tell us a little about her ...
It is from Amarastii de Jos, Dolj, South Romania. She was born in the interwar period at a time when girls had less access to education. She took a few classes and it's amazing that she still remembers things she learned then. She is 86 years old and her mind is just as clear and curious, she has a fantastic thirst to learn new things, to talk to new people, every time I come back from a foreign country she is most interested in find out details about people and places. It is a model for all of us.
What kind of carpets did your grandmother weave and where did she get her patterns from? How do you dye wool?
The ones from her youth are very colorful, with many flowers and worked in great detail. Later he simplified his models, even minimalist I would say, and the colors became more elegant, dark red, gray. She became a widow early, perhaps the colors and patterns reflect her mood over time.
They borrowed their models from one woman to another in the community. When women from other areas got married and came to our commune, with the dowry of veils and carpets, they had new models to make. They also borrowed between localities, where they knew or had relatives. Grandma brought a model from Craiova to the community, which the women from the village later named.
What are the colors and symbolism of the Oltenian carpets?
Most have floral patterns on a black background or geometric stripes on a red background. On the embroidered carpets, the larger ones, there are many old patterns, of the rooster, flowers. I don't know symbolism very well, I know them more in terms of nostalgia than scientifically, so to speak. But even recently I saw an album with Oltenian motifs and fabrics, an album that can be found at the Oltenia Museum in Craiova.
Who weaves carpets in your family now?
Unfortunately, no one. Nobody has been weaving in the locality for a long time. My dream is to bring them back to the present, at the same time, to encourage in the first phase the small workshops or the women who still weave, from all over the country, not only from Oltenia, and then I hope we can create a small workshop and a space where people to get in touch with this craft. It's a long way, but I think it's possible!
Are there more women weaving, is this craft threatened with extinction or can it be revived?
There are a few small workshops and there are also women who weave, but if we do nothing to encourage them, it may be the latest generation and they will have no one to pass on the craft. And the best encouragement is to buy their products, to appreciate them and to integrate them in our life and home. I strongly believe in the power of example. When I started the project, there were some skeptics. One of these people soon bought a peasant carpet. Therefore, skepticism is treated with colorful flowers woven from wool.
How long does it take to make a carpet from the first thread to the last?
Wool was prepared in the summer, washed, twisted, painted. They also prepared their weather models and when the weather broke, the weaving season began. These woven in a horizontal carpet could last between two weeks and two to three months, depending on how complex the model was. These were very complex, the "good" ones, the dowries, they were rarely used, they were passed down from generation to generation, they were the girl's dowry. My mother received several such veils and carpets from her parents at the wedding, in fact most of them woven by her grandmother in her youth.
I know that you promoted the Oltenian carpet abroad as well. Where exactly and how was he received?
It is very well received! I talk a lot about the craft, about the rural communities, about the fact that it is handmade and that this craft is on the verge of extinction. I consider them ambassadors of Romania, and people receive them with open arms and then we receive many beautiful messages from them and the best thing is that they pass this message on to their community. Carpets have already arrived in several countries. I sent to Canada, the United States, Australia, but most arrived in France.
Tell us about the oldest carpet. Who weaved it, when, how did it reach you and what does it look like today?
We have a very old red scarf with stylized flowers, it is from Amarasti and it is very well preserved. It was also exhibited at the series of launch events in October at the West Gallery. And I found another old kilim that is now in Australia, to a Romanian woman who lives there and misses the country.
How many carpets do you have in your collection that you would never part with?
I have about a hundred carpets and two that I couldn't part with. It's the one from my grandmother and the one I received from my aunt this year, a few months before she died. I consider it a symbol. The women of her generation will die out one by one and, along with them, this craft may disappear. The time to do something is now.
Do you think that these traditional carpets can find their place in a modern home?
I'm firmly convinced that's it! The modern decor is minimalist, in neutral colors. The globalization of consumption and style also leads to a certain uniformity. Identity elements, such as these carpets, can break this uniformity, personalizing the space, giving it more authenticity.
I will ask you to tell us the story of the veste, a valuable sentimental piece of clothing, but extraordinarily beautiful.
It is the vest inherited from great-grandfather Petre. Until the age of seven I stayed with my grandparents and the familiar faces of my childhood there were mother Florica (grandmother), father Tudor (grandfather), father Petre (great-grandfather) and puppy Peghi, or Peggy as he would be called today.
Grandfather Petre was the one I was in charge of when my grandparents went to work in the fields, and he left us on the neighbours and went fishing on the Danube. My childhood smelled of seashells and fish, and my great-grandfather's figure was very dear to me, he was a peaceful, good man. I care a lot about this vest, it was the holiday vest of my great-grandfather from the time when he was a boy, at the beginning of the last century. It is a valuable piece, handmade, impeccable even after a century. But for me its value is sentimental, it reminds me of my great-grandfather fisherman.
How are carpets sold?
Yes, it matters the size, the model and the way of working, especially for the new ones for which the production costs are reflected in the price. For the old ones, their antiquity and value are added, many are unique, hard to replicate. There are still workshops, they can be bought directly from there, they need orders and encouragement to continue the activity. Those in our collection are exhibited occasionally or can be purchased online, both in the country and abroad.
What are your plans for the future?
I said even earlier, in the short term I want to bring them to light, to bring them to the present, to convince people to receive them in the house. I'm practically the best at this and I said to contribute in my own way. Through these steps, I hope to encourage small workshops and women who are still weaving, it is vital that this tradition continues. And then we will start weaving, it is the most colorful anti-stress therapy 😊 There is a small workshop in Amarasti. But until then, we still have a lot of work to do!