The happy expression of someone who has just opened the received gift is the biggest satisfaction when offering a present. The winter holiday season is filled with opportunities to offer gifts, not just for Christmas, but also for the days of the saints celebrated in December and beginning of January. We have toured workshops, galleries, shops and bookstores to find the gifts that will bring joy to the receivers.
As we begin our walk, the first stop is the Galateca Gallery, located on the ground floor of the palace of the Central University Library on Calea Victoriei. We cross the exhibition space, where the works that are part of the Lecţia de Gravură (The Engraving Lesson) exhibition can be seen, to get to NEOGalateca Gallery Shop, where a multitude of art and design presents can be found, from designer jewelry, leather or textile accessories, home & deco accessories and items for children, to ceramics, photography, painting, illustration and drawings. A Vivaldi concert is playing in the background, the hustle and bustle of the city seems very far away and we take our time to discover the products.
In the first hall we find the Ronativ author room of designer Cătălin Năstăsoiu, where a reinterpretation of the iconic series “The Three Graces” – vases shaped to the contour of Romania’s borders, and a series of three candlesticks, named Sfeșnic S1, S2, and S3, are exhibited. The porcelain items are produced in a limited series, with packaging specially designed for each model, and are design items in themselves. In a different author room we find the works of Mircea Moroianu, whose drawings explore several typologies of toxic couple relationships and themes such as the delayed growing up process, toxic masculinity or the dependency on parents. “Art is an invitation to friendship,” the artist explains in a text in the room, an idea to keep in mind if you are considering gifting (yourself) one of the exhibited works.
Among the elegant shapes, attractive colors and the minimalist lines of the products exhibited in a different room we find the Ubikubi items, produced by the Romanian brand that aims to create contemporary products using natural materials and ecological resources. Wood, cork or porcelain are among the materials used to make kitchen items and containers, vases, plates, bowls and not only. The Seletti items also catch our eye: a ship-shaped desk organizer and several porcelain bowls that together form a palace reminiscent of the architecture of the Italian cities with a long history.
We move onward on Calea Victoriei, cross the Majestic passage and find ourselves close to the Architecture University and to the Faculty of Letters. This is where we find the store of Mesteshukar ButiQ/ MBQ, a social enterprise that aims to highlight the traditional Roma craftsmanship. We find here jewelry, clothing items, bags, accessories and interior design items.
Many of the traditional products have been revisited and new collections were developed, after collaborations with designers Nadja Zerunian, Peter Weisz and Glimpt Studio. For instance, the Charana jewelry line, which includes necklaces, earrings or bracelets. It was created by Nadja Zerunian, who worked as a designer for Calvin Klein in New York, but also for Swatch group. From an English-language presentation exhibited in the store we find out that the Charana bird is a mythical creature in the Roma folklore, often descried as a black bird with one single golden feather, which has magical powers that can influence people’s destiny. They are not the only adornments in the store, where we also find hand-made wicker baskets, kitchen and home items – wood spoons, trays and plates. We spot the copper pot, used in the preparation of Turkish-style coffee, a tradition somewhat overshadowed with the emergence of coffee shops serving coffee made with the help of the expresso machine. On another shelf are the little ceramic houses created by Raluca Țincă under the brand Little Houses, miniature replicas of the houses seen by the designer in Transylvania or elsewhere.
We return to Calea Victoriei, take a left on Lipscani street and find our way to Hanul cu Tei (The Linden Trees Inn), one of the few old inns of Bucharest still standing. We find here several stores offering options for art and vintage design enthusiasts. Besides a store selling supplies for painting, drawing, decorative arts, sculpture and more, this is where Antichități Exponential is located – a store with various interior design items, statuettes, old jewelry, walking sticks with interesting details and more. A store front with many exhibited paintings catches our eye - Almar Antic Art, while another poster lets us know we can also find Podoabe cu Stil (Stylish Adornments) – silver and vintage jewelry.
We stay in the Old Town to tour the bookstores. Those who wish to offer a souvenir to remind the receiver of Romania will find here Lădița Românească (The Little Romanian Box). As its name indicates, it is a box containing various combinations of local products – ceramics made in Marginea or Horezu, towels, painted eggs, honey, tea or various types of the local vegetable spread zacuscă, for instance with eggplant or mushrooms. Everything is packaged using ecological materials, from cloth to wool and a wax seal. Another option in bookstores are the photography albums, either with images from all over the country or dedicated to certain regions, such as Maramureș or Transylvania.
For contemporary-cool reinterpretations of traditional items, we find the Învie Tradiția (Revive the Tradition) T-shirts, which reference well-known characters from local folklore or Romanian literature. The old lady Dochia, Muma Pădurii, Vitorial Lipan, Miorița, Ilie Moromete – are just some of the names on the T-shirts.
A useful present, with an original note can be one of the agendas created by local designers: the Rosho Agenda, with the design of George Roșu or the Aer proaspăt pentru minte (Fresh air for the mind) notebooks, conceived by Andreea Roșca, with ideas, advice and inspiration for everyone’s projects.
Another interesting present can be the creative sewing kit on wood, produced by the social workshop Cosânzeana. Every kit includes a pendant, a brooch or a Christmas tree ornament, the needle and threads, the sewing patterns and guidelines for beginners - all in all, some creative relaxation for a few hours.
If you are still not convinced of having found the right present, the bookstores also offer gift cards covering various sums.
We leave the Old Town and head towards Unirii Square, where we find, close to Cocor store, an unusual shop in the city’s retail landscape - Magazinul Faptelor Bune (The Store of the Good Deeds). It sells products of social enterprises: goods from local producers, cosmetics, toys or decorative items, and many more. It is not very big, but it has a very rich offer of products.
For instance, those preoccupied with protecting the environment can find here the products of Remesh, which hires people in vulnerable situations to work on turning recycled OOH materials, such as banners, meshes or flags, into products such as folders, card holders, laptop covers, bags or home-deco accessories.
For a little treat, we can choose the natural bath salts, the cold pressed soaps and decorative candles, many produced by Ateliere Protejate, an NGO supporting people with disabilities who work on making various products. Ateliere cu Suflet, which provides jobs to the underprivileged, is another organization whose products can be found in the store. For children, we find here the “happy dolls”, hand-made textile dolls.
When it comes to food goodies, the shelves host jams, syrups, honey, handmade pasta and maia bakery products. The mint syrup and the chilli pepper confiture catch our eye so we add them to the shopping list. The confiture is made by Bunicel, another social enterprise, which produces jams without additives and with a low sugar content, while creating jobs for vulnerable groups in Argeș county.
Those who cannot make it to stores have the option of purchasing the creations of Romanian designers online. Furthermore, these take part in fairs such as Materia, dedicated to leather goods; Autor, a design jewelry fair; V for Vintage, a contemporary design and vintage culture fair; and the Noel or Alt. Crăciun season fairs, among others.
Galateca – 2-4 C.A.Rosetti St., galateca.ro
Mesteshukar ButiQ – 7 Edgar Quinet St., mbq.ro
Hanul cu Tei – 63-65 Lipscani St.
Diverta Lipscani – 30 - 34 Lipscani St., www.dol.ro
Cărturești Carusel - 55 Lipscani St, carturesticarusel.ro
Magazinul Faptelor Bune – 27 Bărăției St.
This material is part of a project under the program of promoting the touristic heritage "Destination: Bucharest", carried out by the Bucharest City Hall through the Public Monuments and Touristic Heritage Administration (AMPT).
Photos by Romania-Insider.com for AMPT