Our craft is our heritage

by Gerlinde Schuller

The focus of my research project is on the ‘forgotten’ crafts of ethnic minorities in Eastern Europe and in particular the Transylvanian Saxons. They crossed Europe in the 12th century to move from the Lower Rhine (today Netherlands/Germany/Belgium) to Transylvania (today Romania), where they established the first settlements. They took their customs with them and built up an enormous cultural heritage in Romania over the last 800 years, which still bears witness to these influences today.
In the 1970-1990s, there was a mass exodus of this ethnic minority to Western Europe. Only a few thousand stayed in Transylvania. The majority returned to their roots, leaving behind most of their tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

My project examines this historical span, which leads from Western Europe to Eastern Europe and back, using different crafts as examples (e.g. basketry, ceramics, embroidery and wood- and jewellery crafts). I will show how closed communities have their identity embedded in their crafts and that these identities are often a mixture of centuries-old traditions, migration experiences and assimilation.

The focus topics of my research project are:
–Forgotten crafts
–Intellectual property of indigenous /’last’ artisans
–(Cultural) Sustainability/fusion of craft and art

The progress of my research is presented on the website:
Archiving family memories and dreams.

The research forms the knowledge foundation on which I will develop an exhibition in the longer term.

Follow my visual research on Instagram.

The project is made possible with support from DutchCulture (NL).

Our craft is our heritage
Ons ambacht is onze nalatenschap
Meșteșugul nostru este moștenirea noastră
Unser Handwerk ist unser Vermächtnis

Hand-painted tiles, Netherlands, 1620/1640 (left) and in the Transylvanian Saxon tradition, Romania, 19th c.

Roma-girl with baskets, Romania, 1917; basket weaver Andreas Kravatzky (right) in his workshop in Brașov, Romania, 1926

Reconstruction of the atelier of Constantin Brâncuși (RO) in Paris (FR), 1992-1996
The Romanian artist is considered the forefather of the fusion of crafts, sustainability and art and forms an important inspiration for craftsmen and artists.

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