The Barro Preto Tradition: Pottery in Vila Real

The Barro Preto Tradition: Pottery in Vila Real

I am always delighted with stories and traditions that have been passed down for generations. THE conventual sweets, for example, is one of the oldest practices in Portugal and is still produced today, as I told you in this post.
Another custom that has existed for at least 600 years and only in 2016 was considered
intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO is the Vila Real Pottery. This is the name given to the production of pieces made from the black clay of this region, known as Bisalhães Clay. This culture and products were not only considered cultural heritage, but are also on the list of urgent safeguarding needs.
The Barro Preto Tradition: Pottery in Vila RealThe Barro Preto Tradition: Pottery in Vila Real
What does that mean? Unfortunately, the pottery tradition is disappearing because few people are still dedicated to this activity. In addition to the small part of the potters being elderly, they end up having no one to pass on how to reproduce these pieces.
We were lucky to meet Jorge, from
Pottery Ramalho, who told us a little about this difficulty of maintaining tradition. Not many people are interested in learning the art of pottery as it is today, purely handmade. Another factor that hinders the continuation of this tradition is the lack of government incentive.
The Barro Preto Tradition: Pottery in Vila RealThe Barro Preto Tradition: Pottery in Vila Real
Both the clay and the process of assembling the pieces are unique and special. The items are all cooked in one
open oven, which is nothing more than a hole in the earth filled with wood from the hills. The process is all natural and the chemical components of the clay also end up evaporating, since the temperature is very high and the oven is not open.
Some industries have even tried to imitate the pieces made with this clay. However, as the used ovens are all closed, the chemicals stay inside the parts. The taste of the food made in the handcrafted pieces also ends up being different. They taste amazing!
The Barro Preto Tradition: Pottery in Vila RealThe Barro Preto Tradition: Pottery in Vila Real
If you go to Vila Real and buy one of these pieces, pay close attention to the potter’s recommendations for the first use of each item! Jorge, from Olaria Ramalho, told us that the ideal is to fill with water and leave it overnight so that the clay will absorb it. After that, you can use it normally, without having to repeat this process 😉

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