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Old Time Romanian Leather Craftsmen

Romanian Village’s Most Important Traditional Craftsmen: Leather Artisans (Skinners)

Leather artisans’ work involved many processes of great complexity. To start with, the leather craftsmen were tanning the pelts and hides, an extremely tough process, especially when having to deal with a great number of raw hides. A week after, the tanned leather was ready to be tailored into traditional leather coats and waistcoats.

Romanian Artisans

If you want to find out more details about the traditional leather coats, click to see the traditional fur, pelts and hide clothing.

Read also The Traditional Craftsmanship of Romanian Lambskin Vests

This type of clothing wasn’t optional, or a fad. It was the only type of winter wear they had access to. They didn’t have clothes to wear, or blankets to cover their bed with, unless they were raising sheep.

Tanning Leather

In addition to their physical purpose of covering the body, these coats began to perform social functions, such as indicating the social status. The coats worn at village celebrations or events were more ornamented. The astrakhan or polecat fur lining was considered luxurious. The polecat fur lining vests are specific to Pojorâta and other villages nearby Vatra Dornei, but also a source of inspiration for other villages too. This is a vest from Iaslovăț village, but the polecat outline fur is not specific to Iaslovat.

Romanian Village

To show his wealth, a peasant had to have such coats to wear at celebrations. A peasant was wealthy if he had lands and animals. Otherwise, he had to have an occupation. That’s how people came up with the saying “meseria e brațară de aur” (ie a handful of trade is a handful of gold).

One of the Oldest Romanian Craftsmen Skinners Restoring an Old Folk Vest Video

This winter, my husband had a vest restored by Romanian artisan Levițchi Petru from Milișăuți town, in the region of Bucovina. The vest was in an awful condition. An aunt took care of everything, so we didn’t have the chance to see him, until 3 months ago, when we went to meet him in person.

He was home, eating lunch with his wife. I can’t describe their happiness at our arrival, they even reassured us that we didn’t disturb them. A peasant is the happiest when he has the chance to show and speak about his occupation, which he loves so much!

Traditional Craftsmen

“I’ve spent a trouble-free life”, he told us as he sat at his old sewing machine.

Romanian Craftsmen

“Never drank, never smoked. I was just a poor 18 years old boy, looking for an occupation. I learned it from a brother in law, a former prisoner of war camp. He took me on as his apprentice for two years. Now at the age of 82, I can still sew without wearing any glasses, and my old sewing machine is still quiet. “

Leather Craftsmen

He always had the support and help of his wife. They got married in 1955 and ran the family occupation together.

Romanian Artisans

“Every year”, he continues, “on September 15, our house was full of people coming in to be measured. I used to make astrakhan hats, hides, vests and coats”.

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Today, people come to restore the old and used vests.

Leather Artisans

They now prefer the fur lining trimmed and replaced with a material.

Traditional Craftsmen

If the outline astrakhan fur is damaged, then it is replaced with a new one:

VIDEO – Romanian Traditional Leather Artisans’ Craft

Old Leather Artisans’ Traditional Methods of  Tanning Leather

  • 50 raw pelts were put into a blade tank full of water for 24 hours.
  • After 24 hours, they were taken out, washed, put back in and treated with sulfuric acid.
  • With the used of the blades, he was spinning the skins inside for a week, for the acid could burn them.

Romanian Village

  • After one week, they were washed, taken out and left to dry.
  • The fats were removed inside an electrospinning machine, which was powered by an engine.

Tanning Leather

Read also Haute Couture Leather Craftsman Demonstrates The Crafts of a Folk Sheepskin Vest

  • They were put back in a  tank for two more days, and treated with chrome twice a day.
  • At last, they were taken out, polished and painted.

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