Today we got up thinking about rain, more specifically about umbrellas. Umbrellas are actually one of the most recognizable elements of craft from the northeastern state of Pernambuco. But you might be wondering – why on Earth are they thinking and writing about umbrellas – because we don’t associate Brazil with rain, only sunshine, right? Well, kind of. It has actually been a very dry winter down south, in the state of São Paulo – in had been nearly two months since it rained here in the mountains. But today, we woke up to the gentle sound of raindrops. Then finally…the much-needed rain started to pour down. OK, that’s a long enough preamble! Back to the colorful umbrellas of the Brazilian northeast. The umbrellas in the primary colors of blue, red, green and yellow, almost omnipresent in Pernambuco in handmade items and souvenirs, come from its presence in the northeastern state’s trademark dance, frevo.
As part of our Brazil Craft Tour, where we will be visiting each of the 27 Brazilian states looking for representatives of authentic handmade creations of each location, I am visiting the northern state of Pará, the “Gateway to the Amazon.” I had never been to this part of Brazil before, so I didn’t know what to expect other than the craft production hubs I had researched. But as soon as I got off the plane, it was clear that this was a completely different place to everywhere I had been to inside my own country. First, the weather. While temperatures continue to plunge in my native São Paulo, in Pará there is no winter. This time of the year is actually referred to as summer, so the sun is blazing and the nature is lush, providing artisans with a whole world of materials to work with. Nature is also the
If you love craft, it’s hard not to fall in love with Pará. In the state, which we visited recently as part of our Craft Tour of Brazil, lush nature provides a perfect springboard for artisans to produce an array of craft items just about as vast as the collection of plants that can be spotted in the “gateway to the Amazon.” The state in the extreme north of Brazil is also quite big – larger than all of France – so the diversity of craft styles is equally huge. Main styles include toys made in the city of Abaetetuba out of the pulp of miriti, a type of palm native to the region. The calabash bowls of Santarém, in the west of the state, are also obtained from the fruits of another native tree and are embellished with itricate, unique artworks. Crafters across Pará often take advantage of straw, twigs
Softly-spoken Pirias is busy. He is preparing several items to take to a market and still needs to prepare for a workshop he will be hosting in a city that is hundreds of miles away from his hometown of Abaetetuba, in the state of Pará, extreme north of Brazil. Still, the artisan, real name José Plácido da Silva, finds a bit of time to chat to us. Abaetetuba is the home of toys made out of the pulp of miriti, a palm native to the north of the country and Pirias is the most recognized representative of this kind of craft in the whole of Brazil. The toy maker credits his fame and recent success – which includes a host of exhibitions and workshops across Brazil, as well as being picked as one of the few artisans to represent his state in the shops set up by the government during the
At Gift Brazil, we aim to make genuine Brazilian artisan art and craft available to the world. This means that our team is always on the road, all over Brazil meeting with artisans and encouraging them to join our collective. Recently we were up in the extreme north of Brazil in Belém. Then we went to the extreme west of the country in the Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland in the entire world – very close to the border with Bolivia. Some of the artisans we meet are in very remote places, but we don’t have many requirements for including someone in the collective – the main requirement is that they are producing interesting products that we would like to showcase online! Sometimes, we meet artisans that produce great work, but we just cannot include them in the Gift Brazil collective because they don’t use email or other basic technologies. All orders
Gift Brazil has been a fantastic adventure. Since December 2013, our Brazilian handicraft promotion and sale project has made it possible to travel to various parts of the country, where I learned a lot about local culture and handicrafts, and several artisans were successful in selling parts through our platform. However, I will put this project into a semi-pause at this point, while focusing on some new opportunities. First of all, I want to say openly that this is not the end of Gift Brazil. This project dwells in my heart, for the transforming power of artisanal production beyond merely decorative utility to be something that really interests me. Gift Brazil has always aimed to sell and promote original handmade products in Brazil to people in distant continents of our country. I wanted to go beyond the ‘made in China’ T-shirt whose print has an image of Christ the Redeemer.