I made this interview of Teodor Bârsan in his workshop, back in October 2005. The digital video technique – and especially the one I had in my hands at the time was not the best. But that matters not, as you will still be able to feel who Teodor Bârsan is and how he carves the beautiful things – small and large – that he does. For a small portrait of Bârsan, please also visit this link.
Perhaps nobody else embodies more fully the traditional wood carving craftsmanship of Maramureş than Teodor Bârsan of the Bârsana village. It may be no coincidence that his talent flourished in a village which has more wood carvers than any other village in Maramureş: Bârsana is strewn with beautifully carved old wooden gates and numerous wooden houses and boasting two wooden churches one being on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and the other one being one of the most beautiful monasteries of Maramureş.
I thanked Saint Peter for finding Gavrilă Hotico-Herenta at home in his Ieud village – it was 29th June and work across all villages of Maramureş was grounded to a halt in observance of one of the most important religious festivities of the year. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to get hold of him, as it is several decades now that he moves between various sites across Romania, which his wife can attest.
In Săcel, another wonder has survived the centuries: unglazed, red ceramic pottery. It is the only place in Romania where unglazed red pottery is still produced. The family of Tănase Burnar of Săcel has been making ceramic ware for more than eleven generations. The technique is the same as the one in the prehistoric La Tène period in Dacia, using a very unique, greasy type of clay found in the area at 12 to 15 meters depth in the hills near the village.
Godja Pătru Pupăză from Valea Stejarului (once a standalone village, now part of Sighetu Marmaţiei) is renowned for his wood carving skills – one can see his wood-made commemorative crosses, the troiţe, in many Romanian communities abroad. Besides crosses and gates, he creates small decorative objects, which impress through craftsmanship.
I first met Vasile Şuşcă in May 2009, at a traditional festival in the Hoteni village. I had known him and his his masks from pictures; even so, it was hard to recognize him: his rich, proverbial mustache wasn’t there anymore. Less than a month later, I paid him a visit inside his artistic den, a former grain millhouse abutting a river bed by now dried out for more than a couple of decades.