The adventure of materials and colours from nature starts with British designer Anoushka Cole. One can reach Câmpulung through the filter of wonderful local craftsmen.
For this project we chose to visit one of the most appreciated weaving craftswomen in the country, Mrs Mariea Plopeanu. We were greeted not only with a museum of items woven by Mrs Plopeanu and her mother, but also with carefully researched, traded, rescued and selected items from all over the Muscel basin, up to 200 years old. Local patterns and materials, gold and silver threads and various stories accompany each woven piece, along with a sincere love for this craft and, ultimately, lifestyle.
We were welcomed especially warmly and with surprising stories by one of the last wool artisans in the country. At Emilian Catrinescu, wool is washed, carded and spun into yarns dedicated to industry or various individual orders. Highly sought-after services, he can’t keep up with demand.
How could we better capture the local specificity of a city like Câmpulungul if not by a stroll around the city?
From the newly restored Negru Voda Monastery to the Town Hall we enjoyed an impressive architectural landscape and told the past, present and future scenarios for this town. We were greeted by abundant information at the Museum of Ethnography and sat the rest of the day around the Golescu Villa preparing for the experiments and workshops of the days to come.
Joining us for our debates, preparations and explorations was Mr. Andrew Glass from the British Council, whom we told all about our plans for this intense week.
We set out to be inspired by the local tangible and intangible cultural heritage, while using the surrounding nature as the main element in obtaining natural pigments, making blockprinting patterns and printing flower leaves and petals directly onto materials.
That’s why we dedicated most of the day to a foraging expedition in the hills of Lerești with our guide and local specialist Selena (Corina-Elena Diță). A connoisseur of edible plants, mushrooms and the stories that accompany the hills at the foot of the Păpușa Iezer mountains, Selena helped us to fill our “forage bags” with a great many seasonal plants, such as: crocus, violas, scarlet elf cup, strobilurus mushroom, wild strawberries, Easter flower, busculite, moss, dog’s tooth violet, hairy wood-rush, coltfoot, star of Bethlehem, cherry bark, dried ferns, cones or walnuts.
The rest of the day was eminently busy around the pots, since we chose to boil wool, flax, silk and cotton in a solution of nettle, spruce cone, fern, red onion, maple and cherry bark.
Magic day in the kitchen
We aimed to have a whole day dedicated to various plant and plant-inspired painting techniques.
Boiling natural materials in various herbal solutions – this was already started the day before and completed on ready-made textiles. Linen tableware was given the colour of spruce cone and nettle, and the silk shawl was taken to the light earthy colour of dried fern.
The hammer technique –it marked the final linen materials, in musical rhythms and with some force, with traces of: rose hips, greater celandine, dwarf periwinkle and forsythia picked directly from the dendrological park of the Golescu Villa. One of the experiments I even kept with the pressed, unpicked flowers and leaves as part of the creative process.
The roll-wrapping technique – used for the linen and silk all with plants from the home garden left to steep and soak for a long time: greater celandine, dwarf periwinkle, blackberry flowers and forsythia.
Block printing – inspired by the colours and shapes of nature we accessed the linocut technique to create repeating patterns on linen tablecloths and kitchen towels. Leaves, mushrooms and geese(!) remained printed on the textiles as traces of the places we explored.
Around 30 children and adults joined the Pro Patrimonio team on Saturday to close the project with a final community experiment.
With the plants and inspiration provided by the Golescu Villa garden, the children brought to life a giant 5m long tablecloth. They hammered, sewed, made wool cottons, attached plant materials and then decorated the whole thing at the end with their own stamp made in linoleum.
Music, snacks and merriment accompanied the whole; we ended the adventure with some outdoor soup and a wood fire animation.
The residency in Câmpulung Muscel is part of the Circular Catalysts project carried out by the British Council Romania, in partnership with the Romanian Cultural Institute. This is a programme designed to generate new collaborations between designers, artists and craftspeople from Romania and the UK and to facilitate fertile conversations around sustainable production practices and processes.
Other events in the project:
Rezidenţă Circular Catalysts la Vila Golescu
Pro Patrimonio exhibition within Circular Catalysts. Romanian Design Week 2023
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