What a wonderful week just passed on a cultural exchange in rural Transylvania, Romania. As a solo craftsperson life can feel a little disconnected and it's always fantastic to bring together people from different cultures (we had English, Scottish, Irish, Slovenian, Roma and Romanians together) to talk sustainability, traditional skills and lifeways and about connections and openness. I believe most crafts would've been a communal activity or at least part of a chain of interconnected craftspeople (eg. The tanner and leatherworker would be closely linked) so getting groups of us together always feels so right.
The focus of the group was on basketry including willow weaving as well as split hazel which was fantastic to experience from scratch, cutting the wood out of the coppiced forest. And we touched on a little bit of bee skep making using wild clematis vines.
Now I love me a bit of craft but what made this exchange for me was the fact that the whole rhythm of traditional rural life was still there (albeit just hanging on by a thread by the mostly older generation still championing it... For now). Britain has practically lost this so to see shepherd out with their sheep and dogs all day, traditional thatched barns being filled by a teenager with a wooden rake, and most gardens full of produce to be preserved in numerous ways was heartening for humanity. I realise this was probably a rose tinted idyllic view of everything but it's inspired me anew to strive to be a sustainable craft person and where possible use my local renewable materials in what I make.
My brain is buzzing with ideas and connections from this trip which will definitely guide the ethos of my work. Get yourselves to Romania if you've ever got the chance!
With thanks to Grampus Heritage for the opportunity to take part in this valuable Erasmus Plus experience!