Event recom­mend­a­tion – Fant­ast­ic han­di­craft one day event on Sao Miguel island

In the days lead­ing up to Advent my friend and I happened to find an advert­ise­ment for PRENDA – Han­di­craft Fest­iv­al of the Azores, organ­ised by Centro Region­al de Apoio ao Artes­anato (Region­al Centre for Han­di­crafts). The regis­tra­tion for the event proved to be some­what tricky, but apart from that everything was fant­ast­ic. We were prob­ably not alone think­ing that a han­di­craft event that starts at 9am and fin­ishes at 7pm might be a tad too long – but once you fin­ish read­ing this art­icle you will know how much we enjoyed it and how fast time went by and that we were sorry that the event came to an end, after all.

We all met up in the morn­ing in Pon­ta Del­gada at an eas­ily access­ible, cent­ral loc­a­tion. There were not too many attend­ants – like I men­tioned before, I think some people might have been scared off due to the length of the event. But thank­fully, des­pite the low turnout, the organ­izers decided not to can­cel the event. So this is how we ended up spend­ing an entire day with the artists of the PRENDA Han­di­craft Festival.

Viola da Terra Manufacture

Our first stop was in Riber­ia Grande, at a gui­tar maker family’s man­u­fac­ture. I have learned so much, and I also did research the top­ic a little bit and would like to share it with you now.

Western-Europe’s 2 main “gui­tar coun­tries” are Spain and Por­tugal (includ­ing the Azores). The most wide­spread Span­ish gui­tar types are: Fla­menco, Gui­tar­rico, Ban­dur­ria, and Laud, while the Por­tuguese gui­tar is called a Viola. Of course in big orches­tras gui­tar­ists play on clas­sic­al gui­tars most of the time. The tra­di­tion­al Violas almost became “extinct” but in the last few years they have a gain­ing pop­ular­ity and thus luthiers across Por­tugal star­ted pro­du­cing them again. Violas come with all sort of dec­or­a­tions, but they can also dif­fer in terms of their shape, the shape of their sound­hole, or even the shape of the head. An import­ant char­ac­ter­ist­ic of Por­tuguese gui­tars is that edge of the gui­tar – where the sound board meets the ribs – is not rein­forced, and with the dec­or­at­ive lines being fur­ther inside the sound board the edges are more fragile.

Por­tugal is truly a gui­tar Para­dise: I have read about Viola da Fado (a steel string  gui­tar used for play­ing Fado music), Viola Braguesa, Viola Amarant­ina, Viola Toeira, Viola Beir­oa, Viola Cam­pam­ica, and about the Cava­quinho (which was first made on Madeira, and is the grand­fath­er of the Hawaii­an Ukulele).

The tra­di­tion­al gui­tar used on Sao Miguel is called Viola da Terra, and it is some­what smal­ler than a clas­sic­al gui­tar. The sound hole is shaped like two hearts, and it has a whoop­ing 15 strings – as opposed to the 6 strings of the clas­sic­al gui­tar. The nat­ive gui­tar of Ter­ceira island – Viola da Ter­ceira – has a round shaped sound hole.

The Por­tuguese Man­dolin – the Ban­dolin – is also very pop­u­lar on the Azores.

Hugo Raposo and his fath­er, Dinis Raposo have been cre­at­ing all sorts of gui­tars – ran­ging from clas­sic­al gui­tars to the Azorean Violas – in their man­u­fac­ture for 15 years.

Source: http://​www​.atlasofplucked​in​stru​ments​.com/

Ofi­cina Museu das Capelas

The next stop was the Ofi­cina Museu das Capelas museum which fea­tures a huge col­lec­tion of arti­facts ran­ging from old plastic dolls to ancient ships and machines used for dif­fer­ent trades in the old times. The museum itself is very unique: inside the museum build­ing there are smal­ler cot­tages, and one of them is a post office, the oth­er one is store, the third a weaver work­shop etc. In some of these cot­tages people are work­ing today using tra­di­tion­al tech­niques. Like I men­tioned before cre­at­ing and installing a Nativ­ity scene is a long time and very import­ant Azorean tra­di­tion. But the little hand painted clay fig­ur­ines – which can be seen in every Presépió – are in demand all year around, so their pro­duc­tion is not lim­ited to the Christ­mas peri­od. Also the weavers are mak­ing car­pets all year round. I had the priv­ilege to become a weaver and to prac­tice on a small loom. In the after­noon we could try cre­at­ing and paint­ing our own small clay fig­ur­ines, and someone even explained how to cre­ate fish scale flowers – a very typ­ic­al Azorean dec­or­a­tion and souven­ir. First we thought 3 hours might be a bit too long to cre­ate these han­di­crafts, but we would have been happy to stay once ses­sion was over. Hereby we would like to thank the par­ti­cip­at­ing artists for their help, espe­cially Ana and Ines! Thank you, you have been amaz­ing. Take a look at all the things we made. Prob­ably the best souven­ir ever: a self-made Azorean gift

Mini Gui­tar Con­cert at the Gruta Do Carvão Lava Caves

Next up was the most excit­ing part of our one day trip: the sur­prise! Our bus stopped out­side the Gruta do Carva lava caves. I was already very excited, since I always wanted to see the lava caves. But the sur­prise was not only vis­it­ing the caves, but on our way up we were greeted with the sounds of beau­ti­ful gui­tar music. The organ­izers asked a loc­al gui­tar­ist – Rafael Carvalho – to play a few melod­ies on Viola da Terra, the very instru­ment we found out so much about that morn­ing. It’s been unbe­liev­able. Unfor­tu­nately mak­ing a video was not an option, but please take a look at the photos.

As a sum­mary: it has been a fant­ast­ic day from begin­ning to end.

Photo cred­its: Eden Azores, Centro Region­al de Apoio ao Artesanato

Thank you, dear organ­izers for the event and of course many thanks for my friend who joined me. The Region­al Centre for Han­di­crafts is plan­ning to organ­ize more PRENDA events in the future. I can abso­lutely recom­mend it. If you have any ques­tions, or would like to join the next PRENDA event please con­tact me, and I will be in touch when I have more information.

For the latest news fol­low us on the Eden Azores Face­book page. For more inspir­a­tion and beau­ti­ful pho­tos check out the Edenazores Ins­tagram, and for com­pre­hens­ive posts of course the www​.edenazores​.com blog.

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