Portugal is famed for its high quality, locally made leather goods, copper, ceramics, handcrafted silver and gold, embroidery and tapestry, woodcarving, cork products, porcelain and china, crystal and glassware. Today, skilled potters turn their creative heritage in to new forms of art.
People in Portugal have worked clay since prehistory – it is part of who we are. Travel the country one finds glazed tiles everywhere- on churches, houses, palace façades and in gardens. You see traditional red and black clay as every region has both. And, many areas offer amazing museum reproductions such as Viana do Castelo and Coimbra.
And, there are whimsical and fun clay traditions such s the figures from Estremoz, the greenware from Caldas, or the Rooster of Barcelos.
Caldas da Rainha, just north Lisbon, is a center of Portuguese pottery due to the abundance of clay deposits and its wonderful pottery. Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, in 1884 opened a factory that makes the town famous, Fabrica de Faiancas,. The factory still puts out a variety of cabbage and greenware, figurines, and fanciful pottery.
Black pottery is found in Molelos, in Centro. The artisans of this region are identified with their creations, practicing the art of pottery making through generations.
Traditional arts ceramics and tiles are distinct values too, from fine Coimbra. Lisbon’s Museu Nacional do Azulejo is one of the most important national museums, for its singular collection, Azulejo (Tile), an artistic expression which differentiates Portuguese culture, and for the unique building where its installed, former Madre de Deus Convent, founded in 1509 by Queen Dona Leonor.
Caldas da Rainha
Welcome to the unofficial capital of Portuguese pottery - Caldas da Rainha, where people have been making pots of clay since prehistoric times.
Caldas da Rainha is locally known for its sulfuric waters, from which it got its name, which means the Queen's hot springs. Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro and his brother opened the Fabrica de Faiancas in 1884. They put our decorative pieces, faience, tin-glazed earthenware, and wonderful tiles. Caldas da Rainha's pottery falls into two main categories: utilitarian house wares, such as plates, bowls, platters, mugs, and tureens and decorative items, such as caricature figurines such as a cabbage-shaped soup tureen,.
One of the most popular decorative figures is Zé Povinho bearded peasant everyman.
Coimbra reins over the River Mondego, and is known as a city of students, but it is also a city of pottery Its refined beauty and historical pottery can be confused with none other. Coimbra pottery is based on museum reproductions dating back to 15th century with polychromatic styles in geometric forms and images of rosters, fish and peacocks with Asian and Moorish influence. By the 17th century Vasco da Gama had returned from India and Chinese porcelain became known in Portugal. Chinese influence soon disappeared and a truly Portuguese style of colorful pottery began in Coimbra’s many workshops. By the 17th century Coimbra pottery offered reproductions of Portuguese hunting scenes, where feathers as well as wild animals such as boars, deer, rabbits and dogs can be seen. Within a century, the color of choice had become blue on white background.
Today, stores though out the Alta (Old Quarter) sell hand painted Coimbra pottery for a handful of local workshops. All are signed by the artist, and come with a century mark to show what style they are in. From the shops at the steps leading up to eh city’s Romanesque old Cathedral, to the artist cooperative in ha former tower of the city’s walls (A Torre do Anto) it is no challenge to find Coimbra pottery today – and enjoy it!The Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro offers a massive collection of the local pottery from the 15th century.
The small village of Nisa sits north of the Marvão mountains in the Alentejo. It does not take long to find it locally made bilhas ( pots and cantarinhas water jugs plus cups, plates in all sizes
The pottery is displayed on the roadsides because this is how they dry before going into the ovens to be fired. It us a treat of red clay painted with small little shining dots. It are the tiny Quartz gems that are inlaid on the clay pieces, are typical ,of this kind of pottery of Nisa.
Redondo is colorful a village of the Alentejo, know for it colorful and bright pottery painted on a red clay background. The first historical reference, in which the first potters’ corporations and the first trading regulation of that handmade industry are written down, was elaborated in this village, and proudly guarded there.
When one walks along the narrow streets of the Redondo village, there are, at each corner, potters, in front of whom are displayed pitchers, pots, amphorae, painted plates, jars and many other typically colored pieces.
This pottery tradition supposedly has its origin in the Roman and Arabian cultures, that existed in this region for long periods, at different times, and that influenced and left to this village cultural values and techniques that sought the maximum profit of the natural richness of clay of its subsoil. Those influences are very evident, in many ways: in the terminology with which certain pieces of this pottery are named, in the shapes of certain pieces, and even in the decorative motifs used in the more typical and popular pieces.
Pottery from Redondo " evoke the rural life, floral motifs and are also reproductions of antique plates from the XVII century.
Black Pottery of the Centro
Molelos, town near Viseu, in the
Centro Region, sits between two lines of mountains - Caramulo and Estrela). here ceramics is still manufactured by the reduction cooking process, which makes the pottery the color of black clay. This art is based on the obstruction of the pottery as it is fired, in as make rich with carbon. It deposits all over the pottery and oxides of the clay in the firing pits called "Soengas". These black shiny clays are soft to touch and its production includes a phase of meticulous finishing that gives them a perfect and beautiful look.
Modeling life in clay, is to give free rein to the imagination to produce burlesque figures, animals, religious pictures and figures, usually reinterpreted them in a mixture of respect and mockery, or representing scenes of work and play from rural life. These are some of the examples of the astonishing and exuberant variety of forms, themes and colors than we normally call the Figures of Barcelos, in the northern region of Portugal.
Barcelos is included in Santiago de Compostela's pilgrimage route, and for that reason the "pilgrims' boat" or the "small boat" (Barc + ellus). According to legend a young pilgrim was sentenced to death for a crime he was innocent of. The local judge received the young man in his own home to hear his plea for mercy, as he dined on roasted rooster. The pilgrim swore innocence lifted his right hand's two swear fingers and exclaimed: "Honorable judge, t I am innocent. If I lie, the rooster on that tray will stay where it is, but if I am telling the truth, it will rise and crow”. In the same instant, the rooster indeed stood up and began crowing. The young man was immediately released. To say thanks, the pilgrim built a stayed tot eh rooster, and that is to be viewed today in the Barcelos museum. From there, the local potters took the idea, and made colorful statues of a rooster, that over the centuries, became a symbol for Portugal.
Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo is the northern capital of gold, lace, and fine pottery. The first pottery factory opened in 1774.It faiences tried to imitate precious porcelains that the Portuguese sailors imported to Europe. Even in the first periods of manufacture were made, besides crockery, utensils richly painted for pharmacies, churches and monasteries.
In Viana each piece is hand painted, this is, rigorously hand painted and not one or two strokes over the printed motive.
With a certain personal knowledge, here is created an unique porcelain, the one which is elaborated according to the inspirations which insert themselves in the truly sense of tradition of Portuguese faience and which satisfies the bigger exigencies. Each piece is, and should be, unique. A hand painted plate of the morning will never be equal to one the artist ends in the afternoon, because it is always dependent of his personality, which guaranties to his work his individuality. Each piece – even a simple vase, even a platter - is a truly piece of collection. A rigorous selection of the materials permits producing pieces without cade and lead, and because the temperature of boiling exceeds the 1415º C, the pieces present themselves with zero degrees of absorption.
Alcobaça (altitude: 42m/138ft.), about 20km/12mi south of Batalha and known by the Romans as Eburobriga, is charmingly set between two little rivers, the Alcoa and the Baça, below the ruins of a Moorish castle. Its principal attraction is its magnificent Cistercian abbey.
Alcobaça is the cultural and economic heart of a large and fertile agricultural region (fruit canning), first brought under cultivation by St Bernard's monks in the 14th C.
The town is noted for its blue painted pottery which, with other handicrafts, can be found on sale in the square fronting the abbey.