Fair Craft > Artisans > Wickerwork > Stella and Nicolae Subtirel

Stella and Nicolae Subtirel

In the village of Fofeldea there are still several Romani families who have mastered the traditional handicraft of basket weaving. Fofeldea is located between Sibiu and Sighisoara, five kilometers off the main road. In the past, these baskets were used in agriculture and in the yard. The basket weavers made these baskets in the cold season and sold them in the various villages. Unfortunately, people in the region now prefer to buy plastic containers – most notably because they are cheaper.

The traditional basket models of the weavers from Fofeldea are the “corfa” and the cylindrical “cos”. The “corfa” has the shape of a hemisphere and two handles. The frame is made of hazel, which is then braided with split hazel and willow. This basket is extremely stable and durable. The advantage of the “cos” is that it has a straight bottom thanks to its cylindrical shape and can therefore be used wonderfully as a laundry basket or waste paper basket. The “cos” is made entirely of willow.

The Romani people from Fofeldea get the raw material for braiding from the forest and the river bank of the Olt. They know exactly where the best and most beautiful osier grows. When it comes to the hazel, particular attention must be paid to its straight growth, otherwise the sticks cannot be spliced.

Stella starting to braid

Stella is Elena’s daughter. She and her husband Nicolae learned the craft of weaving from their parents as children. As adolescents, they found work in the factories of Sibiu during communism. As was customary at the time, they were provided with an apartment by the state factory. After the 1989 revolution, like most Romani people in the country, they were the first to be fired. Within a few years they could no longer care for their five children and, as Stella put it, “begging was never an option”. So they sold their small apartment in the city and bought a small house with a garden in Fofeldea which is located 40 km from Sibiu. Stella grew up in this village, had some relatives here and the combination of subsistence farming and basket weaving enabled them to support the family. They almost exclusively weave “corfe” and share the amount of work. Nicolaie brings the willows and hazelnut sticks home and bends the upper frame of the basket. He also splices the hazelnut sticks. Stella is responsible for the braiding and the finer work. Nicolaie is still trying to sell the baskets from his horse-drawn cart in the various villages.

In her book “Rromii povestesc = Roma people are sharing their stories”, the Romanian ethnologist Oana Burcea impressively demonstrated the importance of handicrafts for Roma (O. Brucea: Rromii povestesc = Roma people are sharing their stories, Sibiu: Astra Museum, 2015).


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