There are many young girls and women who would like to buy a leather bag made by Father Savvatii (Bastovoi), an hieromonk that has many gifts and talents and does his job very well to the glory of the Lord and for the benefit of people. In our interview you will learn about the Bag of Books bookshop-workshop, about attempts to revive authentic trades and about why Father Savvatii uses only natural materials and turns down synthetics.

"I thank God for having endowed me with the capacity to create. I do my job with gladness and this is as it should be because a man has to work with all his senses."

Savvatii Bastovoi

"I thank God for having endowed me with the capacity to create. I do my job with gladness and this is as it should be because a man has to work with all his senses."

Savvatii Bastovoi

"I thank God for having endowed me with the capacity to create. I do my job with gladness and this is as it should be because a man has to work with all his senses."

Savvatii Bastovoi

"I thank God for having endowed me with the capacity to create. I do my job with gladness and this is as it should be because a man has to work with all his senses."

Savvatii Bastovoi

You are a gifted person, a poet and a writer. Before taking the monastic vows, you were an artist. Now, you are making bags and leather accessories, which is a rather time-consuming occupation. How do you organize your day to manage everything?
A change is as good as a rest. I thank God for having endowed me with the capacity to create. I do my job with gladness and this is as it should be because a man has to work with all his senses. Work keeps my mind open, my body deft, my ears sensitive, my eyesight acute and me communicable. Do you think it takes a lot of time?! There are things that match each other and can be done at one and the same time. I can be working on a bag and contemplating. I am contemplating my plans, recollecting my life and thinking about what for men come to earth. This is a very useful occupation (Father Savvatii means exercising trade – Editor’s note). It was common in all the communities. In our time we see men stray from work although doing manual jobs has always been. The apostle Paul and Moses and all monks did them. For example, they wove baskets. Nowadays baskets are out of fashion and we create bags.

How did you come up with the idea of making bags?
I’ve always been doing something – now painting now making sculptures. I create bags as if they were sculptures and I can not be called an artisan in a conventional sense. I see them as if they were my sculptures or my paintings. All what I’m making now is filled with the same emotions that have inspired me to paint. So a bag I have made is not just a bag, it is my creature.

You mean making bags for you is just continuing what you have always done, does not you?
You are absolutely right. I can not see any difference between what I’m doing now and what I have done. The only difference is the stuff, because I have not worked with leather. But trying something new is wonderful. Leather allows bring to life almost the same ideas as wood, but much faster. This is leather that can be given any shape you wish as fast as nothing else. I believe that why God taught people how to make clothing, footwear and other things from leather.

As you have said, your principle is working with natural materials only. In other words, you use what God gave us, do you?
To begin with, everything that God granted to us is absolutely beautiful. The Bible says: "And God saw that it was good”. I like to support various crafts and they must exist until natural materials exist. I am against using synthetics. All artificial things make a man their slaves.

All man-made things are meant to attract consumers. A lot and cheap – this could be their slogan. How do you feel about it?
I can not work fast and make more bags than I can. That is why they are not cheap. All the more so because making them is not my core occupation. Sometimes I find time for creating one bag and it costs me a day or two of my life. That is why I can not sell my bags at a price they are sold in the Central market. My bags are made by my own hand and by my heart and I do my best when create them. Many would like to buy them, but few succeed because I can not meet all the demands.

"This is not only work made by hand that brings value to a thing. These are traditions and excellent knowledge of the craft. Only thus the things we make achieve value."

Savvatii Bastovoi

"This is not only work made by hand that brings value to a thing. These are traditions and excellent knowledge of the craft. Only thus the things we make achieve value."

Savvatii Bastovoi

"This is not only work made by hand that brings value to a thing. These are traditions and excellent knowledge of the craft. Only thus the things we make achieve value."

Savvatii Bastovoi

"This is not only work made by hand that brings value to a thing. These are traditions and excellent knowledge of the craft. Only thus the things we make achieve value."

Savvatii Bastovoi

"This is not only work made by hand that brings value to a thing. These are traditions and excellent knowledge of the craft. Only thus the things we make achieve value."

Savvatii Bastovoi

What about the gain? Do you contribute it to the community?
You can not start such a business without having money! Buying leather and instruments, opening a workshop and painting the church wall in the monastery all require money. Now I am not alone in my endeavours and have mates to help me. I would like to open a workshop for more people to join us. Our compatriots leave Moldova or starve there although our land is so generous with materials to be crafted!
First of all, we have to revive our trades and workmanship traditions, which are well-paid abroad and have to again strike root here, in Moldova. I think we have to bring our traditions back and believe God has opened a lot of opportunities for it. I have gathered enough mates to open a workshop to be able to do more.

Would you tell us about the bookshop you have opened recently – Bag of Books? What distinguishes it from other bookshops?
Opening Bag of Books was the first step to realizing the dream which I have had since I started making leather goods. This is both a bookshop and a workshop. Here you can find rare books that you can hardly get anywhere else or the books that cost more expensive in other bookshops. Besides, there are not many Orthodox books in Chisinau shops. At the same time, a lot of our girls crochet, we make bags and there are a lot of people who would like to learn these trades. We have an excellent master from Bucharest who has been making bags for over 25 years and who taught me this craft. I want all those who would like to learn from him to join us. There is another man, a baker that makes wholemeal bread. What I am dreaming of is having a place for us to work together to the glory of the Lord and for the benefit of people.

What do you think of present-day craftsmen?
Everything that becomes fashionable is bound to turn into kitsch. People seek to become craftsmen because they believe handmade things can easily be sold at a big price. Unfortunately, they do not invent anything new, but borrow others’ ideas. The point is that they lack knowledge and culture. So, we have opened Bag of Books to promote local trades and to advertise local craftsmen. We would like to contrast what they make with what is offered for sale on market.
Of course, on the market one can find handmade things too, but they are worth little if they are not based on knowledge of traditions and the history of our trades. It is just waste of time. This is not only work made by hand that brings value to a thing. These are traditions and excellent knowledge of the craft. Only thus the things we make achieve value.

What about events promoting Moldova's popular traditions, such as the IA MANIA Festival?
This was a great event with a lot of activities. But what is more important is that such an event is a venue to bring together creative people, craftsmen. They can communicate with each other and admire beautiful skilfully-made things. I think such events pave the way for what comes next. I mean people first get acquainted with each other and then establish useful contacts. Someone works with leather and someone does with wood, someone buys and someone sells. This is important because there are people that know how to create good things but can not sell them and, on the contrary, there are people who are poor makers but excellent merchants. From this point of view, the IA MANIA Festival is very important and that is why I supported it. I came there not to sell my works. Almost all of what I displayed had been sold before the exhibition. I just asked the buyers to let me exhibit my works during the Festival. So, I came to IA MANIA out of sympathy to those people of Moldova who can create beauty at home by their own hands.