Friday 15 July 2011

A Portuguese pottery

Outside the village of Porches, on the side of the N125 in what feels like the middle of nowhere in particular, is the olaria or pottery of Porches, in an Algarve farmhouse behind an old iron gate ...

It took an Irish artist, Patrick Swift, in collaboration with Portuguese ceramicist Lima de Freitas, to recognise that an ancient Iberian art form, a ceramic alternative to the porcelain originating from China, was being lost to the region, its craft dying out.

They scoured the region for craftspeople who still had the skills passed down by their ancestors, trained new ones to revive this dying craft, and in 1968 opened this pottery.

The tile mural in the Bacchus bar, a café attached to the pottery, was painted by Swift, but for the rest, the patterns are mostly animals, flowers and foliage typical of the region and are painted on site ...

The technique is majolica (in Italian maiolica), brought to Europe by the Moors via ancient Persia and China - tin-glazed pottery, painted in bright colours on a white glaze.

This, as far as I know, is the same technique used by the very talented ceramicist Gina, over at Art and Alfalfa, who paints in Italian Renaissance style. I thought about Gina when I visited here this week.

I love my bits and pieces of Porches pottery - they're user-friendly (dishwasher-proof) for everyday use, and their colours and patterns remind me of this part of the world.  So while some waited patiently ... 

I grabbed the opportunity to stock up on some more.


  1. Dear Karen, Thank you for this wonderful post. I love Portuguese ceramics. With only a few words and beautiful pictures you have written the history of majolica painting. You are correct, I use the very same techniques and materials. Faience, Majolica, Maiolica, Delft, Maioliche, Talavera...all terms which describe the same technique, was first introduced by the Moors to the Iberian Peninsula more than 800 years ago. Thank you for including me in your post.
    Warm regards, Gina

  2. Karen, those folks who rescued this beautiful place deserve lots of thanks.

    The tradition now looks to be in very good hands, and judging from your photos, thriving. I love the lyrical quality of the painting.

    Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I am also going to take a peek at Gina's site.

    Best wishes!


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