Made in Romania: Mărțișoare to support a favorite designer, cause or charity
The arrival of spring means that one of the most popular traditions, that of mărţişor, comes to the spotlight once again, as the custom of offering the trinket spurs a creative offer. We outline below some of the available options and places to find mărţişoare in Bucharest.
It's been five years since the mărţişor tradition has been included on UNESCO's list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, after a joint effort of Bulgaria, North Macedonia, the Republic of Moldova and Romania to have this cultural practice recognized. Celebrating the arrival of spring, the practice consists of making, offering and wearing a red and white thread with a trinket, which is untied when the first blossom tree, swallow, or stork is seen.
The mărţişor/martenitsa/martinka is believed to provide protection against various perils. For the local mărțișor, mărțișug or marț, children would have a silver coin tied to their wrist with a red and white string to keep away illness. After 12 days, the string would be tied to a tree for it to be fruitful. The cattle would receive the same string to be healthy and fertile. The urban world took over the tradition, and various fashions permeated the custom, resulting in the variety of trinkets that can be found today.
The mărțișor to be planted
Mărțișoare Plantabile, a project of Atelierul de carte (The Book Workshop), are made of manually recycled paper, embedded with birch seeds, clover seeds, lavender petals or, in some cases, marigold petals, all randomly distributed. Atelierul de carte is based in the Apuseni Mountains, where Răzvan Supuran moved after years of various projects experimenting with handmade paper, including at a workshop at the Peasant Museum in Bucharest.
Moara de hârtie (The Paper Mill), a non-profit based in Comana, in Giurgiu county, south of Bucharest, manufactures this mărțișor made of handmade and recycled paper, with embedded grass or flower seeds. The miniature book is inscribed with fragments of poems by Romanian authors. Moara de hârtie also makes mărțișoare made of clay or knitted ones, making use of the creative workshops it hosts. There are ten such workshops in Comana, keeping alive crafts traditionally practiced in Romanian villages, from loom weaving, reed and rush weaving to iron and woodwork, pottery and ceramics, traditional cooking, milling and baking, but also the craft of handmade paper, printing, and bookbinding.
AlbAlb, the store promoting Romanian art and design, hosts one-of-a-kind mărțișoare designed by local artists. The public can find here a collection of hand-painted brooches to be worn all year round, made by the team from Ceramic Sparrow, a ceramic design and production studio founded in 2010 by Andreea Lazarescu and Tiberiu Dancila. There are also the hand-painted mărțișoare designed by Ioana Petre, an architecture graduate whose passion for accessories, colors and drawings led her to a master in Jewelry Design at IED Madrid, or the ones designed by Carla Szabo, a Bucharest-based artist who has been creating jewelry, accessories and objects for more than 12 years.
Bookstore chain Cărturești hosts its share of Romanian designers and their mărțișor creations, among them those made at Cosânzeana, a social workshop that wants to get city folk to rediscover handiwork and sells kits for sowing on wood. It is the idea of Laura Leonte, a copywriter who traded advertising for the craft of sewing.
Plante Cadou, a store of handmade items based on plants, offers a mărțișor capturing spring in a bottle. This small vial is filled with preserved flowers, which can last up to five years. They also have pencils that can be planted or mărțișoare filled with flower seeds.
Dichisar, a platform for Romanian creatives, hosts a selection of handmade mărțișoare, either one-of-a-kind or made in small series, and grouped in categories such as 'for friends,' 'for colleagues,' 'for girlfriend or wife,' and 'for mothers or grandmothers.'
Inimă de Copil mărțișoare
These are mărțișoare hand-made in the workshop of Inimă de Copil Foundation. A range of items are made in the workshop, including engraved, knitted or hand-painted decorative ones. The workshops are part of a labor integration and society reintegration program for people with disabilities, youth in foster care, or mothers of the foundation's beneficiaries. The money from the sales will be directed to the foundation's day centers, where it supports children from families in difficulty, works to prevent school abandonment, and provides support from the care and recovery of children with disabilities.
Mărțișor fairs and educational activities
Another edition of the Mărţişor Fair is to take place at the Romanian Peasant Museum in Bucharest between February 25 and March 1. Because of the pandemic-related restrictions, the fair will host only 150 exhibitors - students, artists, and artisans. They will be joined by schools, foundations, associations, and other organizations running charitable activities.
The invited participants "use the peasant world and mythology as a source of inspiration or imagine new forms of urban creativity: from the manufactured and recycled item using natural materials to the imprint of contemporary design, cartoons or characters and signs pertaining of urban mythology, imagined on a multitude of unconventional materials," according to a description of the fair.
The fair will also host producers of handmade sweets and jams. The event is open between 10:00 and 18:00, in keeping with current Covid-19 norms. An entrance ticket costs RON 8. A ticket for retirees is RON 4 and for pupils and students up to 30 years old and people with disabilities RON 2. More details here.
The Village Museum in Bucharest is another venue traditionally hosting a mărţişor fair where artisans exhibit their work. This year's is called Primăvara în sat (Spring in the Village), and runs between February 28 and March 6, between 09:00 and 17:00. Both traditional artisans and designers will be present at the event with their creations. Access is based on the entrance ticket to the museum. More details here.
Dichisar de Martie, an event gathering a large selection of handmade mărțișoare but also jewelry, fashion, artisanal cosmetics, and other gifts for the March 1 and March 8 celebrations, is held on February 26 and February 27 at Impact Hub Floreasca (2 Gara Herăstrău St, Equilibrium Building). Tickets can be purchased online, from Dichisar's website.
Spring traditions workshop for children
Organized by the Dimitrie Gusti Village Museum in Bucharest, this series of workshops is meant as an opportunity to get children acquainted with the customs and traditions related to the transition from winter to spring. Children work on making mărțișoare, dolls, collages, and decorative items from a variety of natural and recyclable materials.
A first workshop was held on February 13, with upcoming ones scheduled for February 20, February 27, and March 6. The workshops, which cost RON 40, are open to children aged between 5 and 12 years old. The schedule and details about registration are available here.
Also in Bucharest, the Grigore Antipa Nature History Museum hosts online paper-craft workshops where children can learn to make animal-shaped mărțișoare. The workshops are scheduled for February 25 and February 26, for groups of children between 5 and 7 years old and 8 and 11 years old. The workshops cost RON 40 per participant or RON 70 for two siblings. Details about registration here.
Other museums in the country organize similar events or fairs; check the schedule of nearby ethnographic museums to find out about the available options.
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