Whenever I travel to Valcea County in southern Romania, I always find some time to visit Horezu. Each visit seems like the first and leaving it never seems like a goodbye. Horezu heightens the senses with colors and patterns that are unique for Romania. The ancestral craftsmanship of Horezu is widely admired and rarely forgotten.
Even though Horezu is the most famous for its clay concoctions, the artisans in the area also excel in the weaving of fabrics, embroidery, but also wood and stone carvings. All of these crafts have been passed on from generation to generation. The artisans in the area of Horezu only use the old techniques and tools, but they add a personal style to the patterns they create. They combine the old ways with their own vision and create something that people appreciate for years and years to come.
What is the first thing that stands out while walking the streets of Horezu? The old houses that have the clay walls with colorful patterns and motifs on them. Each clay wall tells a story, much like the Egyptian walls which used to be decorated with stories of the pharaohs lives. It's no wonder that the tourists have been attracted by this area for so long. The locals are very friendly and keen to tell the story of their ceramic design. If the houses don't have entirely decorated walls, then they have the ceramic plates covering them. The ceramics of Horezu are included in the UNESCO patrimony since 2012.
The Horezu artisans make the pottery with the help of clay that they find in the area. The process of turning clay into a ceramic is a tiring one. Mostly men have taken up this task, due to the high physical strength needed. All of the required amounts of clay are taken to the home of artisan, where they are kneaded and slowly mixed with water. The kneading is mostly done by hand, feet or a wooden hammer. Then follows the technique that eliminates the impurities in the clay, so that the surfaces being molded end up smooth. The clay is shaped into small spheres and put onto the pottery wheel. Two wheels are used in this process, stacked on top of each other. The circular shapes are made by turning the lower wheel in a fast manner, while the clay stays on the top one. All of this is done at a fast pace because the clay dries up very quickly. Sometimes, it takes only one minute or less for a ceramic creation to be formed. Only after drying for a couple of days, the ceramic is ready to be embellished.
Whichever tools you're guessing that the artisans are using, I bet you are wrong. They use a cow's horn that has a goose feather in its tip to trace the finest of lines. This instrument works like a pen. All of the colors they use are made naturally, as this is the tradition. Among the patterns, we can find the rooster, fish, and pigeon which symbolize Christianity. Various flowers and herbs signify luck and prosperity, while the spiral signifies the whirlwind of life. After the design has been made, the ceramics go into the oven for the last step before they arrive into your home.
Most of the artisans in Horezu not only create magnificent ceramics but they also offer the means for other people to try and make something with their own hands. This is also the case for the artisans at the Ceramica Pietraru shop. Here, you can create not only something ceramic but also an experience. Allow your hands to feel what it is like to form a ceramic structure with an old technique.
The ancestral craftsmanship in Horezu continues to live on thanks to the dedicated artisans. They are keeping the tradition alive and will continue to tell the stories through their art for centuries to come.
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