Horezu, the UNESCO capital of Romanian pottery
In the northern Oltenia (Valcea County), close to the famous Horezu Monastery, the unique type of Romanian Horezu pottery is brought to life in the hands of many generations of men and women. Their knowledge and skills in the development of pottery are the reason why the craftsmanship of Horezu pottery was inscribed on UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Both men and women are involved in the fabrication process: Men extract the earth, which is then cleaned, cut, watered, kneaded, trampled and mixed – transforming it into red clay. Once shaped, the women decorate the ceramics before firing with special techniques and tools in order to draw traditional motifs. Their skills combined determine the personality and uniqueness of these pieces. Colours are bright shades of brown, red, green, blue and so-called “Horezu ivory”.
Horezu pottery from clay to ceramic
Based only on the clay they can find in the area, the Horezu artisans make amazing pottery. Transforming the clay into ceramic is a long process that requires an impressive amount of effort. This is why men are mostly involved in this task as the clay needs to be taken at the artisan’s house where it is kneaded and slowly mixed with water. The kneading is mostly done by hand, feet or a wooden hammer. Then all the impurities are eliminated from the clay, leaving the surface moulded and smooth. Before placed onto the pottery wheel, the clay is shaped into small balls. Through the wheel’s spin, circular shapes are made which gain height by adding more clay to the shape that is getting formed. Timing is a key factor as the clay dries up quickly – some ceramics are even formed in under a minute. Then the pottery needs to dry for a couple of days and eventually be embellished.
Quite surprising, the artisans do not use complicated tools, but a simple cow’s horn with goose heather on top to be able to trace fine lines, working much like a pen. All colours are made from natural ingredients and follow a strict traditional recipe. Most of the patterns are closely related to Christianity which is why symbols like flowers, herbs and the famous Horezu rooster are most frequent. They mostly symbolize good luck and prosperity, as well as other charms. The final step after the designs have been made, the pottery goes into the oven to bake for several hours before getting their final shape.
Among the most famous decorative figures is the Horezu rooster, the symbol of the revival of the soul and immortality, the power of light over the dark forces. Other traditional symbols include The Tree of Life which symbolizes abundance and eternal youth; The Bird which is the guide of the souls after death; The Lost Path is a charm depicting the journey that a soul makes until it reaches the other plane of existence while The Flower stands for joy and happiness. The diversity of the symbols is much greater with an important role in both wedding and funeral ceremonies. That’s why you’ll see many old Christian symbols like the cross, the snake, the vine, the spring and the star on Horezu pottery too.
Do it yourself pottery
Most of the craftsmen in Horezu are not only responsible for the creation of these exquisite models but they also offer the means for other people to try and make something themselves. Based on their guidance, you can create not only a personalized ceramic but also experience their way of life. Allow your hands to feel what it is like to form a ceramic structure with an old technique.
Once you get to Horezu, you will discover not just a community closely attached to this art but also, craftsman eager to share their knowledge and secrets. You can attend many of the courses and demonstrations they offer and create your own art. Moreover, artisans are great hosts and you can enjoy a traditional meal hosted by the welcoming locals.
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