Lanzarote’s Crafts: Character and Environmental Awareness
Designer furniture made from recycled wood. Ceramics made with Lanzarote clay using aboriginal techniques. Baskets plaited from palm leaves. Scarves dyed using insects.
Do you have finely tuned senses? Come and enjoy the 32nd Mancha Blanca Craft Fair.
Anyone who visits Mancha Blanca from 10th to 15th September 2021 will leave the area knowing a little bit more about the history of Lanzarote.
This time, the journeytakes place under a marquee, with no need to leavethetiny village of Tinajo. Here, every year for more than three decades, the delicate work of those who practice the different craft disciplines in the Canary Islands is on display.
With the programme in hand, we set out to explore the unique trades of 87 women and men from all over the archipelago.
Plaiting and chatting
Coffee, cinnamon butter, manga at its best, red pitaya and a bit of queso fresco. We are dedicating time to breakfast because we’ll be spending the next few hours going from stand to stand, hypnotized by the textures and techniques, the finishes and the stories that we’ll be seeing and hearing from the creators of the objects that we’re going to be contemplating.
One of the best things about the Mancha Blanca Fair is walking through it slowly and asking lots of questions: taking an interest in the creative process and the inherited technique that lies in the fabrics, vessels and objects that parade before us.
The first thing we do is to go to the fair’s Information Point to sign up for the empleita (palm plaiting) workshop that will be given by the craftswoman Yolanda Torres on Saturday, September 11 at six o’clock in the evening. We have a special predilection for headwear of all sorts, and we want to know how palmito (the leaves at the heart of the palm tree) should be dried in order to then plait and make the traditional hats of Lanzarote, an extremely difficult task, both laborious and delicate.
Yolanda keeps the tradition alive at the Casa Museo del Campesino, teaching visitors how to make empleitas with the raw material that nature provides. This is how the master Eulogio Concepción creates balayos (baskets) in his small workshop in Haría, with a rhythmic and exquisite dance of thumbs and forefingers.
The roseta, fine needle lace
Craftsmanship connects the present with the past through the culture that is compressed into objects. Therein lies its importance. Lanzarote’s craft tradition tells us more about the island’s historical past than any Wikipedia entry.
Someone from Mancha Blanca explains to us that in the 1950s, many women of Lanzarote used to use needle and thread to create a geometrical grid on a small bearing called a pique.
The result was the roseta, a fine floral-inspired lace that was joined with other pieces to create antimacassars or tablecloths, which were gladly bought in Madrid, the United Kingdom and Germany and which constituted an important contribution to the island’s family economy. These works of textile art also decorated homes in Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela.
Daniel Cabrera Panasco knows a lot about all of this, and he will be there on Monday, September 13 at six o’clock in the afternoon to present his book La Industria de la Roseta en Lanzarote desde 1898 (The Roseta Industry in Lanzarote since 1898). As places are limited, we have already signed up by sending an email with our details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The roseta is one of the forty traditional crafts of the Canary Islands currently at risk of extinction, and perhaps this fair will awaken the interest of younger generations in the technique.
The soul of mud, the colour of a pest
The people who practice some kind of craft enjoy a common denominator: they all say they experience a relaxing mental serenity while knitting, kneading, painting or sewing.
Handicrafts also have other beneficial effects: they make us take a more active awareness in the origin of the materials we use, of the hands or the machines that have manipulated them, and of the aesthetics and ethics of the objects that surround us.
That’s why we won’t be missing the clay modelling workshop that will be given by Aquilino Rodríguez on Wednesday 15th at noon for youngsters between 4 and 12 years old, nor the natural dyes workshop offered by Asociación Milana (at 5 p.m.), an organisation which, for many years, has been teaching how to use cochineal carmine in the dyeing of fabrics and other objects.
Clay connects us to the earth that sustains life as we know it. The carmine which is obtained by infesting the orchards of prickly pears in the region of Guatiza with cochineal insects helps to preserve the landscape and the ecosystem. The product beats industrial chemical dyes in every comparison (brightness, durability, etc.).
The list of handicrafts that can be found in different private studios on the island is huge: handmade knives, glass decoration, cabinetmaking, enamelling, felt work, tin smithing, wool spinning, soap making… There are traditional and contemporary crafts, exercised by very young people and by others with much more experience.
Craftsmanship is a way of caressing the roots of a territory.
While we sip a glass of wine from La Geria standing in front of a gofio tasting stand we enjoy the feeling that we are linked, forever, to the origins and to the future of this land of Lanzarote.