Sunday, April 27, 2008

Arraiolos, Portugal

Recently, I overheard some wives talking about their recent trip to Arraiolos to look at, help design and order hand stitched, Portuguese wool carpets. Interested, I sought out the significance, history of and design of these carpets. Apparently, every family has these carpets on their list of "must haves" before they PCS.

Arraiolos is the little town where much of these carpets are hand stitched - most by women working out of their homes. Historians don't really know, exactly, how long women have been making these rugs. It is believed that they learned the craft from the Moors, who dominated the Iberian Peninsula into the 13th century. The New York Times published an informative article about these rugs in 1985. Upon reading the article, I thought the shopping information must be outdated. It was not.
Arraiolos is a clean, quintessential town with whitewashed and blue-trimmed buildings. There isn't much English spoken there. But, hand jesters and very elementary Portuguese will do until you reach the more well-known shops, where catering to English clientele is more evident (along with prices a little bit higher than the smaller shops).

Many of the rugs made in this town (and the town of Oporto) are sold to American stores. One well-known retailer of the rugs is Pottery Barn.

What I didn't know, before arriving to this town, was that these women don't just make carpets. They make wall tapestries, pillow cases and more. In fact, most shops will take a picture, painting or drawing that you have and custom make whatever you want. Or, you can choose a design they have in the store and have the colors changed to your liking. The possibilities are endless.

A friend and I walked around and looked at different designs and tapestry artwork. I think I'd like to buy a rug similar to the yellow/green/red one shown in the picture above. I would also like to take a picture of the Portuguese countryside. Specifically, a scene of grazing sheep, their caretaker and wildflowers, such as poppies, and have it made into a wall tapestry. If I had a great picture of cattle instead, I could have the tapestry maker use the picture as a guide and stitch the cattle into sheep instead.

Artwork is currently priced a 100 euro per square meter. So, I have time to snap pictures and save my money before making a purchase at some point in the next year or two.

Olivia enjoys a light splash from the water garden

This trip was to view the town, browse the shops for design and items for future purchases, and taste the local wine and gastronomy. Once again, Portugal did not disappoint.

1 comment:

Katie said...

WOW! I am so envious that you are getting time overseas in such an awesome place!!!