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Learning craft skills: Esparto basketry workshop at La Ciutadella Ibèrica de Calafell

Monday, 23 November, 2015 to Tuesday, 24 November, 2015
Jasna Lesnjak
Number of Participants / Visitors / Audience: 

La Ciutadella Ibèrica de Calafell organised the Esparto workshop on the 23rd and 24th of November, in collaboration with Valencia settled Dutch professional basket-maker and artist, Simone Simons. The objective of the event was to get to know some of the traditional Spanish basketry craft skills. Among eight participants from Spain and UK there were professor Linda Hurcombe from Exeter University, five Ciutadella’s educators, and two members of Ibercalafell, the re-enactment group from Calafell.

Esparto is a vegetal fibre produced from stipa tenacissima plant, growing in Spain, Portugal and some zones of North Africa. Due to it’s strength, these fibres have been used in this region from prehistoric times for making a wide range of everyday objects, such as basketry, shoes, ropes and cloth. In Spain, esparto industry formed an important part of economy until 70s, but now there are only few craftsmen who have still got the knowledge and skills needed to work with this material.

During the workshop, participants first obtained some basic information about esparto and its use, about three different forms of fibres which can be obtained from this plant, and about the great variety of objects which have traditionally been manufactured from esparto in Spain. In a practical part of the event, they learned various techniques of esparto plaiting, starting with two basic ones (three- and five-strand plait), continuing with some advanced ones, as a 9- and 13-strand plait, and also a specific technique for elaborating traditional round wine and olive press filters (“cofines”).