Each object created by a craftman is unique. One hammer hit higher, the other one lower, but never the same. Many Roma communities pride themselves with the craftmanship they have been practicing for generations and are still trying to keep alive in modern times. As long as the Roma coppersmiths continue to exist, coffee in the copper pot and palinca in the kettle will not become history.


The Roma coppersmiths from the village of Brateiu, Sibiu county, are an atypical community, where the passion for old craft traditions denies the idea that the Romas are lazy and earn their living dishonestly. This community is known for its copper working and stubbornly passes on this centuries-old craft through the generations.

For the most part, the village makes a living from the manufacture and sale of copper kettles, coffee pots, pans and other household items. Craftsmanship among the Roma is a fundamental aspect of cultural identity. In the 11th-12th centuries, when the Roma were captured and enslaved, their dialect, dress-code and their whole identity were replaced by craftship.

In the community of Brateiu, the craft is even a business card. Isoc Căldărar, the oldest Roma in the village, remembers the nomadic period: “We used to live in tents during winter, own animals, pigs, horses, and when we were leaving, we were leaving with everything. We urged the pigs on before us. With the tent, we walked through all the villages. When it was raining, we used to put the tent up immediately. In the winter, we’d shovel the snow and make as much space as needed to install the tent. In 20 minutes it was set up.” (source adevărul.ro) In those times, the most sturdy boilers were made, some of which still exist today.

The Romas of Brateiu use the same tools, the same material and the same patterns as their ancestors, who were slave craftsmen on the establishments of the transylvanian aristocrats.

Among the tools used by the boilermakers to create copper or brass objects are the hammer and the anvil. With their help, a simple piece of metal is transformed into a household object.

Boilermakers’ children are taught this craft from 5-6 years of age. The ever-present cauldron was also born in nomadic times, and with it came the cauldron-makers, a community of Roma who work mainly with aluminium and non-ferrous metals to produce the famous ‘cauldron’.

Today, the raw material has become much more expensive than in the past, and so the Roma are trying to obtain aluminium from the older pots of people who no longer use them. In the village of Toflea in Galati county and in the village of Pârâul Sec in Bacău county, there are still communities who are passionate about their trade.

The silversmiths, who once formed the elite of the migrating peoples, were perceived as craftsmen of a higher social class. The goldsmiths gathered valuable materials from the sands of the waters, which were their main source of supply.

In the grandparents’ households, baskets and spindles were often found. Today, these objects are on the verge of extinction, as are the community that makes them: the Rudars. They are different from the regular gypsies for the simple reason that they do not know the gypsy language and are fully integrated socially and culturally into contemporary life.

In the past, their occupation was working with wood, clay, iron or in the gold mines. Over the years,  the rudars have abandoned their traditional trades because of the increasingly limited possibilities to sell their products.

In most traditional rural communities, only the oldest members of the community continue to practice the craft. For the young, the detail work of handcrafts does not challenge them.

But as the craft has laid a solid foundation for Roma identity and culture since ancient times, it has been brought to an art form by a network of craftsmen from Romania in collaboration with other Romanian and foreign designers. They have set out to develop collections of jewellery and interior design objects in an organised and conducive environment under the label of Meșteshukar ButiQ. MBQ is a social enterprise that aims to bring again value and reinterpret traditional Roma crafts and fight stereotypical perceptions. The income generated from the sale of these products goes to traditional Roma communities.

Among the craftsmen who have kept their skills, their passion for their craft and are active in the MBQ initiative are Victor Clopotar, a coppersmith from Brateiu, Zoltan Bojody, a weaver and Radu Ion, a silversmith.  The focus on craftsmanship brings us closer to the people and stories behind some of the creations. Each object made by the craftsman’s hand is unique. One hammer hit higher, another one lower, but never the same.

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