24 September 2009

Traditional Spanish Crafts

Traditional Spanish crafts from hand woven "Jarapas" and "Esparto" grass to hand carved olive wood and intricately painted ceramics.

Andalucia is the largest region in Spain, almost desert like in some areas, home to the famous cave homes of Granada, Flamenco and the finest cured hams in the world – the Iberian ham. Such a large region, as you may expect holds many surprises both in craft, culture and food. Artisan processes include all of Andalucias cured meats and her other, perhaps less recognised age old traditions – many of which still exist today in the form of weaving, carving and a whole manner of hand produced ceramics.

Over the centuries Andalucia in particular has seen occupation, the most influential being the Moors. Situated just across the Mediterranean there are many North African influences and crafts still produced in the traditional way.

“Artesania” is not just restricted to Spanish foods; the art of craft making is still very popular in Andalucia. Here at Orce Serrano Hams we have selected some local artisans who do just exactly that. The Esparto grass weaver who still goes out to the countryside to collect the best grass there is ready for hand weaving into baskets, wine holders, mats and a whole array of other products – all hard wearing, practical and decorative, it takes a true artisan to get all of three factors to work equally well in one product!

Jarapas” – first introduced by the Moors over 400 years ago this art has remained in the Murcia and Almeria regions of Andalucia. Hand woven rugs in all manner of rustic and bright colours.

Olive wood – carved olive wood, dried and oiled to create everything from the simple tapas server or olive bowl to tables and chairs. Weight equals quality and Spain produces some of the best in the world.

One feature of Spanish crafts is that no two items are the same, unique hand woven, carved or painted items that are simply the vision of the artisan at the time it is produced. Perhaps some of these items are intentionally different, after all given the skills required it would not be beyond impossible to duplicate each item with accuracy. Sometimes, however given the nature of the product no two items will ever be the same, “Jarapas” for example, these Andalucian rugs are still made using recycled cotton so each rug is different.

One factor all these artisans have in common whether it is Serrano hams or decorative crafts is enthusiasm. Some, upon approach are slightly reserved, only the fully appreciative are allowed to do business! Others present a buzzing pitch about how their products are so unique hand made and ultimately “muy muy buena” almost grabbing your arm for you to feel and experience weight and textures of the hand produced stock. Sourcing wines and olive oil is a particularly jovial but very serious experience!

So, some of the finest artisan crafts available from this wonderful and artistic region of Spain.

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