By Corina Ciobanu
The Romanian Peasant’s Museum (MTR) continues its exhibition series “Portrait/Workshop” dedicated to old artisans and vanishing crafts with a special event dedicated to the pottery master Dumitru Schiopu, one of the last artisans still preserving the craft of traditional ceramics.
The exhibition, opening today at MTR’s “Irina Nicolau” Hall, set out to recapture the highlights of an activity of over 60 years, in which the portrait of the master craftsman from Vladesti, Valcea County, is sketched starting from the truth of “stolen” and reinvented craft. The ceramics bearing craftsman Schiopu’s signature includes a wide range of products, from common pots for daily household use or alms to the “one-of-a-kind” folk and handmade pieces, as they used to be called in the 1970s and ‘80s.
When asked to reveal the secret of his craft, the folk artisan explained: “You work it placing your left hand on the inside and your right hand outside, you pick up the clay nicely and you pull at it. Then you work on the outside, you mould it as you wish. If you want to make a pot, you mould a high and round shape, like a pot. If you want to make a bowl, you make a flat shape. It’s all about the feel, you’ve got to feel the clay with your heart. You put your heart into it. Why, wasn’t man made out of clay? I’ve lost the feel, my hand has grown numb.”
Through these exhibitions and similar events, MTR is attempting to recover, before it’s too late, the tales and values that traditional crafts still have got to offer, resisting the temptation of artificially reproducing tradition.
“Built on several registers, our exhibitions reveal a certain palimpsest-like quality, bringing together a complex system of gazes and offering a glimpse into several layers of reading: the archiving of tradition as reflected in the relation between the museum collection and the heritage object, the history of crafts, personal mythologies which individualise and give depth to each and every craftsman’s portrait, the reflection on a typology peculiar to Vladesti ceramics (as this is an old Romanian pottery centre), from the vantage-points of ethnographic, anthropological and, last, but not least, artistic endeavour,” the presentation of the exhibition reads. The event will kick off at 5.30pm with a demonstration offered by Eugen Patru, Dumitru Schiopu’s apprentice. The exhibition is running until February 29. The visiting hours are Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm.