Friday, July 31, 2015

Art vs Craft

A recent day trip out to an artist in residence village in the mountains has got me thinking…when is art, actually art and when is it a craft?  I mean knitting is a craft, but I think of my friend Jackie creating intricate patterns, putting these on paper then making them up into garments, I think that there is a real ‘art’ to that.

So, I looked it up:



the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.


the class of objects subject to aesthetic criteria; works of art collectively, as paintings, sculptures, or drawings: a museum of art;

an art collection.


noun, plural


an art, trade, or occupation requiring special skill, especially manual skill:

the craft of a mason.


skill; dexterity:

The silversmith worked with great craft.

 OK so an craft is an art, but related to a special skill….hmm I am still none the wiser really.  I should know, I work for an art gallery and museum, but sometimes what is deemed as art is not what I consider ‘beautiful and appealing’ as per the description above - so who decides?

What promoted this question was a visit to ‘Art Meets Nature’ an artist in residence village in the mountains close to us.  Cirdeira Village is where artists can go to get inspiration and develop their skills.   


Visitors walk around the village and go into the renovated stone buildings to tour the arts and crafts on display and to watch artists work. 


It’s a fascinating place to visit mixing art and crafts together, in one room an old man shaved reeds to make baskets (surely a craft) while a young man was working on engraving a piece of wood (art). 

They are fundraising to build a kiln on site at the moment, so please do go along to the village if you live in central Portugal and make a donation.


In our village, every month there is an art and craft fair, where local artists display and sell their work along-side craftspeople who sell home-made soaps or make items from vintage fabrics.


I am amazing by the amount of arty/crafty people in the world, maybe us ex-pats coming to live in rural Portugal are a breeding ground for developing our arty/crafty side, maybe we have more spare time than most, maybe it’s a certain sort of person that moves here who wants to develop their skills – I have no idea.  But amongst people I know, I’d say the vast majority dabble in art and crafts.   From Peter, who has made tables and chairs and takes amazing photographs, to Jackie who creates patterns and knits, to Quinta da Fonte & Quinta Do Herio that make home-made soaps  to Anka who paints bold and
strong images to Laurel who is a sculptor.

I still don’t know what the difference between art and craft is…..

But I am not sure it matters, just so long as people continue to create then that’s OK with me.

The next art show in Pera is in the afternoon of 9 August, so please come along to visit if you live in Portugal and take a look for yourself…may-be you can tell me the difference between art and craft!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Never judge a town by its ring road

I’d judged Caldas de Rainha from the ring road surrounding it.  We’d passed round the town many times before on our road trips.  From the ring road, Caldas seems like a town in need of some love, large supermarkets of every brand, petrol forecourts, modern apartment blocks abandoned and large areas of wispy grass gone yellow in the sun.   

One day we took a detour from the ring road and into the centre of what is a charming town. 
The town (city in fact) was founded in the 15c by Queen Leonor because it has naturally forming hot springs.  Around these springs a hospital was built, where patients are still sent by their doctors to take in the natural healing properties of this water.  Back in the 15c the queen believed in the healing properties of this stinky egg smelling water so much that she sold her jewels to pay for the hospital.

Like so many Portuguese towns, the historic centre is in need of a bit more love.  The 1920s municipal buildings in the city park and next to the hospital are derelict and filled with pigeons.   

 But they are trying, the area where the fruit market stands has obviously had some funds thrown in to make it a vibrant and useful space.  The new fish market with its high ceilings has just opened following a delayed and over budget build!  

The surrounding streets are full of shops and cafes, giving the whole centre a vibrancy you normally only find in larger towns.   It’s a place where locals, tourists and the new ex-pat community gather to do their shopping and take a coffee.

The daily fruit and veg market would keep me coming back to the town.  It’s full of local produce, friendly stall holders and great prices.   

Surrounded on all sides by cafes and hardware shops, you can wander up and down four isles of seasonal vegetables and sweet smelling fruits.   

June must be the best time to go, with all the local peaches, plums and cherries on display.  In the sunshine with the defused light by the different coloured awnings, I cannot think of a better market.   

A walk around the edge of the market brings forward a couple of vehicles selling local chorizo, fresh cheese and locally made totally fresh bread.   

The Cafe Central by the side of the market was a hotbed for revolutionaries during the Salazar years, and it retains a real 30s feel – you might pay a bit more for you coffee and torrada (toast) but it seems worth it.

Caldas is also home to Bordalo Pinheiro a ceramics manufacturer famous the world over for their crockery based on fruit and vegetables.  I have long been a fan of the cabbage lead plate and bowl.   

The town is full of ceramic shops, using this design.  But for the real thing head for the Bordalo Pinheiro store on the outside of the city park.  Head upstairs for the seconds and bag yourself a bargain.

 The city park is lovely, with open spaces and tree boulevards.   

A museum dedicated to Malhoa (a famous Portuguese artist, who ended up living close to our home of Castinheira de Pera) has some lovely animal sculptures in the courtyard.  The lake still has 1930s looking boat house where you can hire a boat to take a turn about the lake.  

So, I’ll try not to judge a town by its ring road again!  I like it here.