Episode 3: Stitch by Stitch
The saddlers’ craftsman Victor Ion has been working in the Furriers Tower in Sighisoara and selling his products for a few years now. When he’s not busy producing harnesses, belts, whips and other traditional Romanian goods he spends his time on Oina balls. At the time the president of the Romanian Oina Federation Nicolae Dobre contacted him to make Oina balls for the federation, he had never made one before. The Federation brought him a ball for him to make a pattern. He used this ball as a guide for the production of new oina balls. The ball is made out of 8 pieces of leather. When he opened the ball he realized that none of the pieces were equal in size since the ball was used and had stretched from the impact of the bat. Unsatisfied with his findings, the craftsman took out his compass and drew three arches to create a triangle. He makes eight pieces of leather like this then glues cloth to the pieces of leather to give the ball strength. The pieces are sewn tightly together and the ball is ready to be filled with wool. He fills the ball with 120 grams of wool and stiches it closed. It’s not as easy as it sounds. “The whole operation is meticulous and can last more than three hours”, says Victor. Producing oina balls is a challenge for the seasoned craftsman. “I never work constantly. I stop. I get angry,” says Victor Ion. “Who made me take on this task? It’s very meticulous. I make other orders much faster and my income is larger, but I really wanted to do something new for myself.” Victor started working as an apprentice in 1968. In the factory he made handballs and footballs. He said it would’ve been much easier for him nowadays if he would’ve worked on an oina ball back then. There lies an Oina ball on Victor’s workbench that is made in Pakistan. “It’s a pity! It’s our national sport! We are the ones that should make the balls”, says Victor. A standard ball has 7.5 centimeters in diameter, and weights 140 grams. He started working with the Federation over a year and a half ago and he has made approximately 80 balls so far. Trial and error helped him achieve the perfect process. At first he’d waste away the materials making small errors but now he’s close to an expert. Since he does not receive large orders from the Federation it’s not cost efficient. On the other hand, Sighisoara is a medieval town and people make most of their income selling their products to tourists. “If I would sell a ball and a bat as a souvenir to tourists I would make much more money. When the tourists see the ball they ask me what it is and if I want to sell it to them”, says Victor Ion.
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