July 19, 2022

France - The village of old crafts in Meuse - Vieux Metiers Azannes Museum

I am a bit in a hurry to write this post, because only the next weekend you can visit the "museum". Also, it's not quite a museum is more of someone's home turned into a museum showcasing old crafts from the village world. Otherwise, if I've convinced you, keep an eye on their website or their social media to see the next events.

It is rather close to Luxembourg, if you go towards Verdun. So it is doable. And despite the very crowded parking, the village did not seem that crowded. Let's put it in another form, after a pandemic, I haven't felt in any way awkward. 

Also, because of the size of the place (17 hectares) and the limited number of buildings, I think that without the open days, the village would feel a bit deserted. But, during the open days, all the crafts showcased in the village are live, you can make (and buy) bread, tarts, you can see how the hats are made, how the Christmas creche is made, how textiles are made and washed, you can print stuff, you can experience a plethora of agricultural works, including beekeeping, and also discover how the people who were doing those crafts lived. 

The village was opened in 1990 and although I am old enough to remember the 90's, since then, 32 years have passed. You can read about its history here and also see the way it evolved. 

It is very child friendly and buggy friendly, from the entrance you have a place where you can get a cold water, something to eat and ice-cream and on a hot day like the one we visited the museum you don't have to worry you will not be hidrated.

The entrance fee is 16 euro, a bit much, but the prices inside are minimal (1 euro a water, 2.5 for a goffre, 1.5 for a coffee). 

I hope I've convinced you to give it a try, if not, here are a few pictures.

First craft, The Hatter 
I was watching a lady making a straw hat
Ilinca looking at some rather creepy old dolls 
The school was closed, as we are on holidays after all, but it looked cosy and some of the benches looked familiar 
The embroiderer. 
I'm not sure it is an official craft, as I'm not sure people in older ages would go to some specific person to embroider stuff, but there is this embroiderer with the feminine embroideress; someone who ornaments with needlework. 
I know in Belgium there were and still are lacemakers, which this lady also did.
The horse was doing some agricultural job, maybe mincing the seeds, I don't know, but as I am essentially a vampire afraid of sun, I did not dare to venture closer to find out. It looked like the horse was on a treadmill (look into what a treadmill is and maybe, just maybe this is its ancestor). 
In one of the houses there was a family gathering. I felt a bit awkward looking at them, but they gave me butter and cheese and next door there was a bread oven... well you can guess what I did.
The girls and I in front of a lovely house which I believe was the house of the Weaver. It had around it all the steps from sheep wool, to thread, to a loom and finally a lot of washing machines.  
The washing part of the house
The washings hanging on to dry

Although I looked at the textiles, where I found them, what were the chances that the first embroidered piece I found had some carnations on it? If you are new here, my name in Turkish is carnation and after knowing that, I consider it to be my happy flower.
Watching the washing happen. Say that really quick!
The blacksmith
Part of the museum
Speaking of embroidery, I payed attention to the textiles, as you already know me. In Romanian we call these wall pieces, "peretare". They exist even today. I've liked this one in particular with two girls helping their mother cook.
I've spotted the embroidered piece from the previous picture on a place that sold goffres, but it was back in the shop, where I had no access. So I've asked someone to take a picture for me and they kindly let me inside pointing out to me the margins of a shelf. I know a friend of mine who dreams of having shelves like this and I took a picture for her. Also, examining it closer, I feel this embroidery was machine made, but well ... when you look for brodeuse in French you are welcomed by a ton of pictures of machines, so I feel it's fair. 
A flax stays and a linen one
Closeup of the flax one as we all know how linen looks
Washings in the lavoir (the place where women would wash clothes).
I like that some of the villages in this area kept their old lavoirs and you can see them today. I wrote about one in Luxembourg, here
The Carnations
Another flax garment
Another embroidered piece. Told you I was looking for them. This one looked hand-made.
If we are in this region we cannot pass by without talking about lace and embroidery.
This looked to me like a sampler, a piece of embroidered cloth on which a young lady would showcase her embroidery skills. I've wrote about a collection of samplers from Scotland, here.
Loved this window
Bonus: once you cross the border into France, the landscape fills with sunflower fields (say that real quick!)

I am aware half of the museum is not in these pictures, but either we decided we were going to leave some things for our next visit, or it was too hot to even think about taking to phone out.

That's it folks! As always I am more active on my Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu please give me a sign if you make your way through the heat to visit this place.

July 5, 2022

Romania - "Cos pentru o cauza" Exhibition in Bucharest

It has become sort of a tradition to be in Romania close to the IA Day, 24th of June. This year was no exception, but I went to Romania especially for this exhibition, Cos pentru o cauza. I've been there when this project took form and I really liked the concept, but somehow I did not understand how would it be put to practice. Well, let me tell you, that the ladies in the Semne Cusute Community are one of the most imaginative groups I have ever known. 

First of all the title, Cos pentru o cauza - I will choose to translate it as I embroider for a cause, although "cos" is translated as "sew", we are not tailors, we are artists, and creators, "seam" or "stitch" again did not seem right, we are not mending things that already exist. I may be wrong, as English, as much as I love it, is not my tongue, but as I see it, only "embroider" seem fit. To me "embroidery" is closer to art, although tailoring in itself is an art and although we do create entire objects, blouses...well, I may be wrong, please correct me if I am, but for now let's just call it, Embroider for a cause. 

There are a lot, but a lot of exhibitions of Romanian Blouses, all over Europe it seems, all related to June 24th the Day of the Romanian Blouse or to December 1st, the National Day of Romania, but to me, someone who has been closer to this niche, they are too many and not all of them have any purpose other than showing what the museums own or what the ladies of 2022 made. Yes it is important, as there are still Romanians who have no idea what a traditional blouse looks like, but I want more, I want exhibitions with a purpose. I want exhibitions that speak to many more people than the ladies and their husbands and friends who embroider blouses today. We already proved we know how to embroider, it is time to adhere to a greater cause. And what greater cause than the future of our kids, of our future generations?

The cause, "cauza" from the title is biodiversity and the bees and bugs the smallest of creatures that keep our all ecosystem going. The blouses have two sides, the colourful one, the world of yesterday and still the world of today, and a darker one the world of a maybe tomorrow. The exhibitions raises awareness of what might happen if you don't do diligence today. Traditionally, women of Romania would embroider on their blouses, their world, with the sun and the moon and the stars and all that there is on the sky on the shoulder part - altiță, the earth and its creatures on - încreț and the waters with their creatures on the rivers, the stripes you see on the sleeves. In a way old blouses show us the old world. We embroider them because we still have them, but what would happen in 100 years, in 200 years, if we keep going the way we are going? Well you have to visit the exhibition to find out.

I went to Romania with my daughter, because we have to pass it to future generations. Women of old times would pass the knowledge of the blouses to their daughters. I am involved in this magnificent and creative world, why wouldn't I share it with her?
The poster of the exhibition

As I've said the blouses raise awareness, but not only that. Ioana Corduneanu and the ladies of Semne Cusute Community don't just signal the problem, they also offer a solution. A solution against fast fashion, against consumerism, against harming people from less developed communities who work day and night to make the garments you and I maybe wear, once. The fast fashion brands make collections from one week to the next, it seems and we always have to have it all, but in doing that they cut costs. They pay less the workers, sometimes not allowing them the basic human rights, they use questionable fabrics, produced on a fast track using chemicals and pesticides to raise production. Sewing their garments very fast they make mistakes and one garment would last you a season if you are lucky, instead of years as it used to be. 

The solution proposed by the Semne Cusute Community is using fabrics from known sources, natural fabrics such as linen, hemp, silk and wool and less cotton. Because the request for cotton has grown so much in the last years, the producers are made to use pesticides to grow faster plants and raise production. This is dangerous for the workers involved in the process of producing cotton, but also for the environment. That is why in the last years the garment industry has introduced organic cotton, which is produces using less chemicals, but, to me, it is still a small step in the right direction. No one is saying, make your own garments, but just be aware. Choose quality over quantity! Choose linen and hemp! I have garments from those fabrics and they are good for cold and for hot temperatures, winter and summer. And why not, if you are passionate about tailoring, why not make your own? Or better yet, search for ReBlug on Facebook and see what others are saying about hemp jeans.
Back to the exhibition, don't expect a lot of photos from me, because the purpose of this post is for you to go see it at the Peasant Museum in Bucharest until July 10th, or keep an eye out for it as I bet it would travel. 
Even though I have my fair share of Romanian Blouses Exhibitions visited, even I was amazed by this one. The creativity of the ladies in the exhibition, the sheer number of bugs that are present on the authentic Romanian Blouses and old pieces of embroidery exhibited together with the new exhibition. You have to see for yourself!
I've particularly liked this one. Look at the biodiversity! You can almost say you are in a field of flowers with the bees buzzing around.
And again this one, with one side filled with bees and beehives and the other lifeless. 
This încreț is absolutely amazing! I have to use it somewhere. The creator of this blouse made the altițe herself on the loom and the blouse is made of hemp.

I am aware that you only have a few days to visit the exhibition, but this post is to remind you to look for it in the future. In the meantime, if you know Romanian listen to Ioana explaining each and every blouse, or just watch her without understanding the language, as I am sure you will understand the message. 

Normally I would advise you to go check my Instagram @mademoiselle.ralu as indeed I am more active there, but lately I feel less inspired to post something. It is very hot in Luxembourg as well and all I'm doing is ditch the heat. I will be back!