Stories of the street vendors: Bugyur es Nemez

In the heart of Cluj, stretching through the pedestrianised streets around Museum Square is the bustling Casa Matei Corvin Craft Market. Held throughout the summer, artisans from around Cluj County sell their wares, from traditional leather work, locally produced honey and natural soaps to fashionable accessories and intricate metal jewelry. Hugely popular with locals and foreigners alike, the market gives a wonderful flavour of the thriving and diverse crafts scene in Transylvania.

Every week, made.in.transylvania will interview one stall holder in Casa Matei Craft Market to discover more about their products, as well as sharing their stories, ideas and thoughts about market selling.

Bugyur es Nemez has a huge range or eclectic and colourful products, ranging from felt puppets, leather crafts and colourful badges and hair clips. The secret behind this is that Bugyur es Nemez is a family run-business; each member of this talented and creative Hungarian-speaking family contributes something unique and they take turns in running it throughout the week. Today I caught up with Timea Vincze and her mother Eva Vegh who told me more about how this works.

Timea’s mother Eva is the driving force behind the business. Whilst studying at the School of Popular Arts 15 years ago she learned the craft of felt making, and went on to teach part-time as an art teacher at Timea’s high-school. 5 years ago she decided to make the move to selling her products at the craft market. She buys felt raw, untreated wool to make her felt products and tries to use natural dyes where possible.

Timea obviously inherited her mother’s creative gene. At first she began making bags from recycled clothes, and later went on to make badges using scraps of colourful fabrics. ‘A lot of people make badges and I wanted to make something that is not that common.’ She tells me she discovered a treasure trove of buttons in one of her grandmothers drawers and uses them to create colourful and unique accessories. ‘It feels absolutely great when someone buys one of my products. I am so happy I feel like jumping up and down.’

Timea’s stepfather Czirjak Szilard adds the huge array of leather-based jewelery on offer at the stall, available as hair clips, pendants and earings. Timea describes the process: ‘He uses leather and special glue and rolls them into long thin sausages, like a salami. Then my mother cuts them into thin sections after they dry.’

Timea comes to the stall every day while her family mainly stay home to make their crafts. She admits running a stall can be quite difficult. ‘I like it usually, but after a few weeks in can be tiring. I don’t have much free time to do things like take my bicycle to the repair shop.’ However, there are many perks. ‘I often meet with my friends who are wandering past. And it is great to meet the buyers face-to-face. For example today a lovely lady came past and stopped to look at the earings. She said she doesn’t usually wear things like this but I helped her to choose 3 different pairs. Although she was about 50 she was as happy as a little girl when she found a pair she wanted to buy.’

Timea was 2 years into studying acting at university in Targu Mures when she decided to take a year out to help on the stall. She says Cluj is a great place for crafts as it attracts interest from people all around the world. ‘Plus, I simply adore Cluj. I was born and brought up here. I even love the smell of it – it has this feeling I can’t describe.’

Timea’s mother tells me that the vendors have been working alongside each other for years and celebrate New Years together on the 6th of January with a large party. ‘We know each others babies and the problems in each other hearts.’ Gesturing toward an empty stall next-door, Eva describes how tragedy recently struck the vendor, an old lady who sells hand-woven embroidered fabric. Her daughter house was struck by lighting and burnt to the ground. ‘The stall holders are working together to save money to help her out. ‘We work together because everybody needs support behind them.’

When I ask Eva what the future is for Bugyur es Nemez she looks a little sad. ‘I love the feedback of street selling and meeting people face to face. But the future is that more and more people are buying on the internet so we will probably have to make an online shop. But I don’t like it.’ She admits however that the internet is a great tool for reaching people across the world. ‘I think foreign people appreciate handmade products more. For people in Romania these things are very normal and familiar, and they prefer going to the supermarket or shopping malls.’

Timea will return to Targu Mures in October to complete her studies. Will she miss the working at the market? Timea laughs, ‘At first I don’t think I will miss it. But I know I will come back.’

For more information, visit the Bugyur es Nemez facebook page.

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