A catalogue of craftsmen available on their website provides some insight into the amazing variety of crafts represented: metal works, decorative arts, glass works (including stained glass), wood works, hand-crafted toys, pottery and stove building, bone carving, textiles and clothing, natural cosmetics, musical instruments, leather goods, and jewelry are just a few of them.
Some of the most ancient of these arts and crafts go back to the Middle Ages and are particularly centered around old Saxon settlements, with the village of Biertan being one of the most prominent examples. Biertan offers plenty of opportunities to observe old crafts and traditions, whether by attending a “sezatoare” – an evening meeting of the village women in which they demonstrate their craft of weaving and needlework – or by visiting the traditional weaving and embroidery workshop, the old coopery workshop, or the carpentry workshop.
It bears remembering that crafts were, first and foremost, aimed at manufacturing practical items, necessary for everyday life, and, as such, pottery was one of the most important occupations in the area. So important, in fact, that it was raised to the rank of art rather than craft in such places as the village of Corund. The men harvest the clay from special places, bring it home and knead it with their hands and feet, or using a large wooden hammer, then mix it with water to obtain the proper consistency. The paste is then cut into thin slices that are subsequently worked on a potter ’s wheel, a task reserved to men and requiring a very high level of skill.
And while some might be tempted to think spinning is a women’s only occupation, it’s worth noting that in the villages of the Apuseni Mountains – Alba County, both men and women do it, particularly in winter, when they gather in the home of one host and literally spin their threads, while older women spin their stories of times long gone. This is a winter tradition, which makes sense, considering the long nights and welcoming heat of a fire are all conducive to merry get-togethers in which, while the hands are occupied with the craft, the minds delight in laughter, music, carols and tales, all of it sustained with generous servings of food and drinks.
The yarn thus obtained is then woven into linen that is, in its turn, made into bed sheets, towels, or various garments, such as shirts. Wool is the material of choice for making carpets or thicker clothes, as well as warm bed covers. Modern day requirements might not be so stringent anymore, but back in the day a woman’s skill in such crafts used to be one of her most valuable assets, right there with the very things she managed to craft as part of her dowry.
Wood is, of course, another raw material that is used extensively inside and around people’s homes. Coopers or barrel-makers are among the most respected members of the community, employing their skills to things big and small, from barrels, casks and kegs to water pails, various food containers and even mugs.
Few places in Romania can be said to inspire such a strong sense of national spirit and unity as the city of Alba Iulia, which saw the signing of the papers that effectively established most of present-day Romania. As such, it comes as no surprise that Romanian traditions – ranging from folklore to arts to crafts and even local cuisine – are indeed well preserved and well represented throughout the whole of Alba County. The importance of arts and crafts was acknowledged half a century ago in the city of Alba Iulia with the birth of the School of Arts and Crafts. That could be, however, because the learning of crafts does not require so much a formal education as a keen eye, an open mind and the ability to put all your heart into the work of your hands. The various crafts, which go back hundreds of years, cover all the essentials of day to day life, starting with preparing the raw materials such as flax, hemp or wool and ending with exquisitely turned out clothing, carpets or household textiles, to name but a few.
"Augustin Bena" Cultural Center in Alba Iulia took the responsibility to familiarize young generations as well as visitors with the beautiful rural traditions and crafts from Alba region. Together with artists and artisans from the region, the center is ready to welcome you to the world of Transylvanian crafts. Workshops on various different crafts are available across the region, most of them are free of charge
("Atelier de olarit')
Sebesel, Alba (24km/15mi from Alba Iulia)
("Curs de dansuri populare")
("Atelierul de Pictură pe Sticlă Maria Poenaru")
Laz, Alba (27km/17mi from Alba Iulia)
("Curs de mestesuguri in lemn")
("Curs de confectionat tulnice")
Arieseni, Alba (122km/75mi from Alba Iulia)
("Curs de tesut traditional")