Traditional vests from Bistrita – bead embroidery


The love of beads, a unique tradition, a young creator bursting with ideas – Here is Pieptare Populare Bistrita (Romania)

Interview – Claire de Pourtalès
Photos protected by copyright ©Pieptare Polulare Bistrita

Where are you from? What influence this place had on you?
I was born in Bucharest (Romania) where I lived for 35 years. Six years ago, I moved to northern Transylvania in a little village called Dumbravita from Bistrita Nasaud county. This is where I spent all my vacations when I was young as my grandparents lived here. This is probably the only area in Romania where the traditional costume is made with beaded embroidery. Since I was very young, I was fascinated by this kind of embroidery. It was always on my mind and it is probably the reason why I’m doing it after so many years.

What is your story with embroidery?
It started as a hobby. I never took any classes. All I know I learned by myself, through practice and practice. I was living in Dublin a few years ago when I did my first embroidery piece, a holder for my scissors, and since then I have been working at it. I am still learning from my mistakes every day.

Why use beads? What fabric do you use?
I absolutely love the little beads and for me sewing them is like a therapy. Mostly I use velvet and wool felt, linen and natural fabric.

Do you follow traditional techniques, or do you use new ones?
As I have taught myself, to be honest I have no idea if my techniques are either new or old. I practice sewing until it gets easier for my hand.

What is your creative process?
It might be hard to believe but I am a very early morning person so when I have my coffee, I do the drawings and it comes out very easy and fast. From there, I just start beading the piece. I mix the colors in my mind and the result is what you see in the photos. Creating the pattern doesn’t take very long even if every piece is unique. I have so many ideas that need to come alive.

How did your start your business?
As I said before, it started as a hobby and I started to post my work on social networks and slowly people became interested and I got orders. It looks like I am not the only one who loves beads. I am lucky with my customers because they put their trust in my hands. They just mention the colors they love and let me do the rest of the work. Until now everybody is very happy with my work and this is what gives me wings to go forward.
The advantage is that I work from home, so I have the baby and my family next to me all the time. My husband is the one who finishes my pieces. He is sewing everything on the sewing machine which I have no idea how to use. He is also the one who makes me the size patterns for all the pieces. He prepares the fabric I need, so we do the work together.

How long does it take to create one vest/jacket?
A full beaded jacket takes about 6 months of full-time work. I have two young ladies from my village who work with me now. Whatever I know I teach them and now we can do the work faster.

Do you use specific patterns, colours, beads in reference to the tradition, or do you design your own?
If the demand is a traditional piece, I respect the pattern. The Romanian heritage needs to be unaltered and I try to keep the tradition alive, as much as possible. But when it comes to new pieces, I do all the designs by myself and I never copy other people’s work. My pieces are all unique and I never repeat the pattern. So, if my embroidered pieces come in more than one example, I know for sure that someone else is doing a copy of my work.

Are people wearing your creations for special occasions?
Most of them yes. As they look precious it is hard to wear them for casual occasions.

Who are your customers? Any surprises?
My customers are basically people who love beaded embroidery, not public persons necessarily. But yes of course I have singers and artists who wear my pieces on TV or on stage. Yes, I had some nice surprises as well, it is very flattering to know that other artists are wearing my work.

Do you work only on commissions, or do you create ones you hope will sell later?
Now that I have the two ladies with me, I have enough time to do other works than commissions, but I sell them as soon as I show them online. Sometimes I post just a piece of work that is not yet ready, and I have customers asking about it, wanting to know the size is it going to be and if it fits, they buy it and wait for me to finish the piece.

Which part do you enjoy making the most? 
Every part of the process has its own beauty. I love drawing new ideas and I am so happy when I sew the last beads on every piece!

Do you practice other arts?
I paint furniture when I want to take a break from beading, but it is just a hobby and it is not happening as often as I wish.


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The content of this site is free and is not damaged by un-welcomed publicity. I do this work with love and passion but it requires a lot of time. I would like to continue to offer a wider market to our artists, to show how embroidery is a wonderful art. But I do need a little bit of help. If you feel like it, you can participate with a little donation to help me continue. I will be so grateful! Thank you! Claire