Raluca Ocean and Carmen Mărginaş first met each other 10 years ago as classmates at art school in Baia Mare, and have been inseparable ever since. Both girls shared a passion for art and design, handmade goods, architecture and travel and with these common interests their friendship grew year after year.
After both attending university in Cluj-Napoca (Raluca studied Art History and Carmen Economics and Marketing) the girls both decided to recamp to the romantic Italian city of Florence to continue their studies. Raluca chose to study Communications and Events and Carmen chose Arts and Graphic Design.
It was during a walk near the Florence’s medieval Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence that the idea of starting a craft festival in their hometown of Baia Mare first came to them. ‘Our interest was to put our studies into practice and express appreciation for traditional Romanian craft. We wanted to create an event that communicates ideas that are not so “popular” in Romania in comparison to foreign countries.’
In order to make the festival a success Raluca and Carmen knew that they would have to approach the idea carefully, which is where their huge range of practical studies and experience in events planning came in handy. ‘First we researched and prepared documentation into similar things that are happening now. We read many design, craft and event blogs from Canada, Australia and UK.’ And so Ocean Evenimente was born.
Through Ocean Evenimente Raluca and Carmen organise private parties (birthdays, gala dinners) weddings and christenings that put emphasis on a handmade feel with a hint of vintage chic. The personal, handmade touch runs throughout their entire business ethos. ‘The first thing we do before planning an event is to schedule a consultation to listen to our clients story and learn what they imagine for their special day. We put ourselves in our client’s “shoes” and we think that like us they would want an event that expresses their own personality.’
The girls also run a side project of handmade products made from unconventional materials called Ocean Handmade which they use in their event planning. ‘For most of our clients the concept of handmade and crafting is kind of new. In Baia Mare we are still confronting the idea that handmade objects are much cheaper than products you find in stores.’ As a result, the girls receive most of their contracts from bigger cities such as Cluj, Sibiu and Bucharest which already have events focused on the idea of DIY and handmade.
Both girls admit that returning to Baia Mare has been a challenge. ‘We found ourselves in that point where almost everybody is trying to go abroad and only a few choose to come back. We can say that we are in that category of people who are swimming against the current.’ Building up support and awareness of what they do has been a slow process, but by sticking to their ethos the girls are beginning to make waves across their home country.
This summer they will finally get to realise the dream they had whilst strolling through Florence. They are organising an event called “Festival ReCreativ” (4-5 August) which promotes the idea of reusing and recycling to make crafts. The event will offer workshops that will involve crafters of all different ages, encouraging them to exchange experiences and teach each other ideas about crafting and handmade. ‘Our intention is to introduce a space for artisans that meet, greet and compete in a creative way.’
Raluca and Carmen’s dedication to their project is admirable and is proof that each small venture can have a huge effect in bucking the trend. But it comes with a lot of hard work. ‘We don’t have much spare time because we constantly keep in touch with people who appreciate our work as well as producing new handmade products which takes a lot of time. We are very strict in all the things we promote, we look for effective visual communication and sometimes it gives us headaches.’
‘However, our friendship and our constant desire to make a difference in our hometown keeps us going further. Simple things like our cups of tea in the morning, or riding our bikes through the streets where we have memories and friends. We are young and believe in what we do, we are curious and the challenges make us stronger. So our difficulties transformed themselves into our motto: “Poarta-ne cu un zambet!” (Wear us with a smile!)’
To find out more about Ocean Evenimente you can visit the website or facebook page, or you can visit the Ocean Handmade for regular posts on Raluca and Carmen’s inspiration, thoughts and DIY tutorials.