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MUSEUM UNITS OF

Weaving Workshop

MÉRTOLA MUSEUM

One of the oldest crafts in the municipality of Mértola is the weaving of woolen blankets. Their patterns date back to ancient times and we can make comparisons with the decorative motifs found in ceramic objects from the Islamic period (8th century-1st half of the 13th century) unearthed from houses found in Mértola’s Alcáçova (Alcazaba).

Here, different types of weaving-related objects were also found, such as spindles, ‘cossoiros’, distaffs, loom weights and needles, thimbles, and scissors. In the Weaving Workshop, where we keep the objects and show the work of the weavers, our goal is to preserve this age-old know-how, keeping the entire cycle of the wool alive, using high-quality raw material, traditional production techniques, and old decorative themes.

Museum Units of

Weaving Workshop

Opening date: 2000;
change of facilities in 2005;
renovated in 2014

The weavers

Because work has a face, at the Mértola Weaving Workshop (‘Oficina de Tecelagem de Évora’), nowadays the sound of the loom is the result of the skilful and knowledgeable hands of weavers Helena Rosa and Fátima Mestre. In the past, other weavers like the great Teacher Ms. Adélia, Helena Costa or Guida Rosário, just to mention a few, worked here… We also cannot forget the essential carding and spinning work that is still done by Ms. Vitorina.
Within the scope of the partnership that Mértola City Council maintains with the Association Passa Ao Futuro and Cooperativa Oficina de Tecelagem (Weaving Workshop Cooperative), the residency ALENTEJO HERITAGE TEXTILES took place during the months of March and April, connecting the weavers of the Mértola Weaving Workshop with designers Emma Pucci and Valentina Pilia from Flores Textile Studio, as well as maker Daniel Heer and artist Cian McConn from the Machen Colletive. These Residencies have the objective of connecting the mastery of our weavers to the innovative design of new creators, thus valuing the raw material (wool) and its artisanal processing, from the production of the thread to the weaving of the Mantas de Mértola (Mértola blankets). This Residency is part of the Creative wear + Project, co-funded by the INTERREG MED programme, in partnership with the Arteria Lab of the University of Évora and the Museo del Tessuto di Prato in Italy. The results will be exhibited at the Museo del Tessuto, in Prato (Italy) in June of 2022. Follow the link below to find out more: https://www.passaaofuturo.com/residncia-alentejo-heritage-textiles

The traditional weaving of the woollen blankets of Mértola currently represents the survival of what was once a necessity, a way of earning a living and helping the family to survive. Some 50 years ago, the weaver’s activity was characterised by an accumulation of works to be sold in the fairs of the region and to meet the many orders. Today, production is mainly aimed at a public that wants to have a piece that represents the memory of this know-how in their homes.

The complex work of preparing the wool, carried out in several stages, is essential to the quality of the fabric. In the past, this work was carried out or closely monitored by the weaver, who thus guaranteed the quality of her work and maintained her reputation in the community. The production of woollen fabric also depends on the loom, a complex mechanism regarding which it is essential to know and understand the functioning of all its components.

In the Weaving Workshop, visitors can learn about this work and understand the functionality of the objects on display and in use, representative of an ancient activity that has survived to the present day. However, the evolution of society, the difficulties inherent to maintaining traditional production methods and the problems of depopulation and desertification of the inland regions of Portugal, have led to a point where the continuity of this work is at stake.

This is the great challenge we are currently facing and which already existed 4 decades ago, when the first survey on weaving was carried out and a Cooperative was created with the main objective of providing training. After 40 years, the question of continuity becomes even more critical: the woollen blankets of Mértola are manufactured by 2 weavers, both over 60 years old.

This situation led to a debate involving the community and local institutions, which, led by the City Council, have developed efforts to outline a common strategy that allows the preservation and continuity of this know-how. With the Museum Units of the Weaving Workshop as its central location, a training process has begun that aims to give continuity to the whole process of wool treatment, from shearing to execution on the loom.
Here we will show you the different stages of future weavers’ – Nazaré Fabião and Rosa Ruivo – learning.

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