“When you support handmade…you are purchasing a small part of an artist’s heart.” – Michaela Corning
When I was a kid, my grandmother was a crocheting fiend. She churned out vast numbers of blankets, which she called afghans, potholders, trivets, and the odd set of gloves or scarves, all whist sitting for an hour or two in the afternoons watching her “stories” on TV. I often wish now that I had paid more attention and had more patience to learn because these handmade items were not only a pleasure for her to make, they have become family heirlooms that we all covet, especially as none of us have the skill she had in making them.
This is the way with handicrafts. People learned them for practical reasons and to make a living in bygone eras, only to find the things they were making slowly become obsolete or easier made by machines in the modern world… or have they?
There are several micro-industries on the island that were once flourishing, and which had long histories of success. The ebb and flow of time and taste has altered some of these, but the culture and pride put into making good products remains and is once again being recognised by consumers in the know, those looking to step away from the disposable lifestyle mentality that reigns due to the advent of fast fashion, cheap furniture and low-quality products churned out in factories worldwide.
Some of the best hand-crafted items that Mallorca has to offer include basket weaving, shoe-making, glass blowing, and textile making.
Called llatra by local weavers, this tradition is centuries old and is now being practiced on the island more and more. The resurgence in interest is due partly to people wanting to learn how to weave themselves interesting hats, fans, bowls, coasters, rugs and of course, baskets, and partly because of the shift away from using plastic bags and back toward using reusable bags for transport and shopping.
Made from the Mediterranean fan palm tree, the only native palm to Europe, the leaves are extracted and pounded thin and gathered into bunches where they are left to dry in the sun for roughly three weeks. The strands are then bleached, softened and dried further with a sulphur compound until they are ready to be used.
For those truly interested, there is a small museum in the Casa de Gobernador of Capdepera Castle. In fact, the entire area around Capdepera and Artà is known for their basket weavers and you only have to go to the town squares, especially on market days, to see them in action. If you’d like to try your hand at it yourself, there are places that are teaching the art.
Curso de Cesteria by Raquel
Raquel is a gorgeous lady who teaches 2 ½ hour classes with another instructor three times a week. Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings in Sant Agusti. The class is €50 and between the two ladies, they speak English, Spanish, Catalan and French, so instruction in a tongue you are comfortable with is fairly likely! To book call +34 696 341 946
Shoe Making #
Mallorcan shoemakers can trace their roots back to the late 19th century, when the local wine trade was devastated by an aphid infestation, leaving people forced to take up new trades. Working with leather soon became an important new industry and by the mid-20th century, shoe making was a flourishing business. Cheap labour combined with excellent craftsmanship were keys to the success, and in its heyday, Inca, the undisputed capital of shoe making at the time, had no less than 100 factories. Today only a handful of family-run operations still exist, but these companies churn out quality products and some have name recognition far past the island’s borders.
Bootmakers Bestard are another family operation founded in 1940. Specialising in mountaineering boots, the factory is located in Lloseta, and prides itself on using the latest technologies to create the best quality boots possible.
Address: Carrer Estació, 40, 42, 07360 Lloseta / +34 971 519 730
Camper’s name was taken from the Catalan for peasant, camperol, and their original models were loosely based on the shoes farmers here wore, made from tire rubber and old bits of fabric. The company has only been around since the 1970’s but the family have been shoemakers since the 1800’s and are responsible for bringing modern techniques and equipment to the island. They have grown to be a well-respected brand of high quality shoes worn by the über-cool and are still based in Inca. They have several outlets where they sell all over the island and beyond.
Info: www.camper. com
One of the oldest shoemakers on the island, the Albaladejo family can trace their crafting roots four generations back, all the way to 1866. The Inca-based company believes in good value, superior products made by local people. They make their shoes one by one and step by step ensuring quality control from the start.
Address: Carrer de la Unió, 4, 07001 Palma/ +34 971 229 047
Founded in Inca in 1967, this bespoke shoemaker is now being run by the third generation of the Coll family. Their philosophy is with creativity, craft, technique and love you can build near-perfect shoes and lifelong relationships with customers.
Info: [email protected]
Custom made boots that are built to last. Long-time customers boast of having the same pair for 20 years or more. Owner Tolo Cardell made his name on his made-to-order cowboy boots and today they are still the heart of his Alaró-based business. His understated factory store is the only place on the island to buy his prestige boots and only 50,000 leave the factory each year. Yes, they are more expensive, but fans will tell you they’re worth every cent.
Address: Ctra. Alaró, km 4, 07340 Alaró/ +34 971 514 317
Glass Blowing and Glass Objects #
The tradition of glass blowing on Mallorca reaches back at least to the 14th century, when the first recorded furnace was registered, though there is evidence of glass being made as early as the 2ndcentury. In the convening centuries, not a lot has changed in the way glass is made. Basically, the process is as follows (and please forgive me if I simplify): An iron tube is dipped into a vat of molten glass and rolled until a glob of glass attaches to it. By blowing into the tube, the artisan then creates a small glass "bubble" which he revolves on the tube whilst shaping it with tongs into whatever he's fashioning, re-heating it several times during the process to keep the glass malleable. With a blade he cuts the finished piece from the tube and voila!
The Gordiola family have been glass makers since 1719 and have seen generation after generation follow in the footsteps of their predecessors creating beautifully made decorative items, lighting, bowls and tableware and much more. There is a small museum upstairs, live demonstrations and a gift shop. Located in a faux fortress just off the motorway in Algaida.
Address: Carretera Palma-Manacor, KM 19,6, 07210 Algaida/ +34 971 665 046
On the Valldemossa Road, about halfway between Palma and Valldemossa, you’ll find Lafiore, known for brightly patterned and coloured glassware, decoration and lighting; they also have a fantastic selection of vases, candleholders, oil bottles, pitchers, tablemats and decanters. They are happy to do custom made pieces, and they also offer the chance for you to try your hand at making your own creations.
Address: Ctra. Valldemossa, Km. 11, 07190 S´Esgleieta/ +34 971 611 800
Mallorca has three glass blowing factories, which we will tell you about, but no piece on glass on the island would complete without also mentioning the famous Majorica pearls. The pearls are made of small glass balls that are layered with protective lacquers, then dipped into a special liquid made from fish scales and mother-of-pearl to give them a pearly lustre. It is said they have the closest resemblance to natural pearls than any other man-made pearl on the market. There are two factory shops in Manacor, Majorica Pearl Factory & Café and and Orquidea Majorica Pearls, which also has a museum in Montuïri.
Since 1965, this company has turned out exceptional pieces in from their castle-like location just outside of Campanet. For unusual lighting, colourful tableware and unique decoration, all set in a large showroom, this place is definitely worth a look.
Address: Autopista Palma Sa Pobla, km 36, 07310 Campanet/ +34 971 877 104
Local Textiles #
Called the "Cloth of Tongues" (roba de llengües), the weaving technique used in fashioning the textiles is based on ikat designs originating in the East and reaching Mallorca on the Silk Route. The cloth is strong, versatile, decorative and is great in that it has an identical reversible pattern meaning you can use both sides.
Artesania Textil Bujosa
A beautiful old-fashioned working loom clatters away in the back room of the tiny store front in Santa Maria, giving visitors a taste of what goes into the making of these fabrics. Three generations since 1949 have been producing high quality textiles and offer specialized and custom elaborations including curtains, bed coverings, cushions, table linens and more.
Address: Carrer Bernat de Santa Eugènia, 53, 07320 Santa Maria del Camí / +34 971 620 054
Founded in 1854, this family-run, artisanal weaving mill is dedicated to keeping up traditional production methods, combining them with new designs.They offer a range of cushions, tablecloths, bed coverings, clothing, shoes and accessories, all made with 70% cotton and 30% linen.
Address: Rotonda de Can Berenguer s/n. Pollença / +34 971 530 450 / www.teixitsvicens.com/
Governmental Support #
It was reported in Economia de Mallorca in November 2019 that Mallorca is ready to put money where its mouth is to promote local and artisanal products of the island. To that end, the Directorates of Economic Promotion and Commerce and Handicrafts have pledged a budget of nearly €2.3 million to be doled out in 2020. This is an 8% increase over 2019, and its newest agenda includes funds to assist in the expansion of local artisanal craft making. Additionally, a chunk of the budget will go toward funding professionals to take their shows on the road and go to fairs and events off-island in an effort to expand business and arouse interest. This governmental support of the circular economy shows a shift in thinking and a model of change in support of the people, hoping to make nearly-extinct professions viable again raising the profile of the island and its crafts traditions.
The Way of the Future #
Traditional crafts are deeply rooted in sustainability. With so many wonderful artisanal things on offer from the island, please take the time to check them out…visit, touch, try on… before doing a one-click shop on some disposable fashion website. The way of the future is looking to our past and learning what they have to offer us all!
#mallorcacrafts #mallorcaartisans #mallorcashoes #mallorcaglass #majoricapearls #mallorcatextiles #mallorcatradtionaltextiles #mallorcatejido #mallorcabasketweaving #mallorcaleather
By Stephanie Horsman
3 January, 2020