Ibiza’s artisanal heritage

Craft roots

Ibiza’s artisanal heritage

Think of Ibiza and the first thing that might come to mind is clubbing. That’s no surprise – this diminutive Mediterranean island is famous for it, after all, but this devotion to the dance floor only represents a tiny fraction of the island’s history. Because in fact, Ibiza is bathed in legend and heritage. Home to Carthaginians, Romans and Moors in its 3000-year old past, Ibiza is a melting pot of influences that are still very much visible today. Wander down the cobbled streets of Dalt Vila or round the island’s vibrant markets and see for yourselves – ancient trades are still a regular facet of daily island life.

Take basket weaving, for instance. Recognised as one of the widest spread crafts in the history of civilisation, it’s estimated at over 10,000 years old – pre-dating both pottery and cloth. These days, it’s a must-have accessory for every bronzed fashionista making their way to one of Ibiza’s many beaches, but in the past Ibicencos would use carefully hand-woven baskets in the fields at work, using them to carry fruits, vegetables and water. The majority are made using plaited palm leaf, which has been dried, woven in strips and then sewn together — a three to four hour process for experienced artisans.

"must-have accessory for every bronzed fashionista making their way to one of Ibiza’s many beaches."

Another work item that has now become a sartorial statement is a pair of traditional espadrilles. You see this charmingly quaint footwear on feet and shelves all across the island in varying shades and styles, but 100 years ago they were essential for a day’s work in the fields. Generally worn by payesas, they were an inexpensive way to protect feet from the hot, dry soil, and women would set aside an entire day to construct one pair of shoes. It’s a skill that’s been passed down through generations, with today’s craft bearers proud to protect the roots of their ancestors’ sustainable craft.

Elsewhere, there are all manner of leather goods on display. A craft perfected by the ancient Greeks who were the first people to develop tanning formulas, the skill was brought to the Balearics by the Moors who sold goods in exchange for food. Leather’s hardy nature made it perfect for protection against the elements, but nowadays it’s less about necessity and more about style – handbags, purses, shoes, belts and accessories; some suede, some metallic, some adorned in fluorescent pom poms – Ibiza has become a haven for those keen to adorn limb with quintessential Balearic panache. For a selection of the very best, head to the small village of San Miguel on a Thursday, when it’s transformed into a bona fide leather emporium by some of the island’s most skilled craftsmen.

"in Ibiza, jewellery design takes inspiration from many periods of historY."

Another form of prolific adornment is of course, jewellery. Often a symbol of status or rank, in the past pieces were made from shells, bones and other natural materials, but over time practices gained in complexity and technicality – one need only look at images of elaborately designed Roman and Moorish jewellery to confirm that. Nevertheless, in Ibiza, jewellery design takes inspiration from many periods of history, acting almost as a cultural reference point to the past. Think intricately woven fabric bangles and feather earrings from the 60s and 70s, presented alongside silver, gold and rainbow-coloured gemstones that hark back to more glamorous times. Much like the island itself, contradictions live beautifully side by side.

"it embodies a forward thinking approach to life."

This is an important factor to remember in understanding this wonderful Balearic island. Because while it embodies a forward thinking approach to life, it’s also firmly rooted in its past, often paying homage to its predecessors. Pottery is another craft in which this ethos is patently visible – not only in the ancient methods used to create the island’s dynamic collection of vases, pots and plates but also in the designs embellished on them. Traditional farm life is often depicted with paintings of payesas shading from the mid-afternoon sun, or as solitary figurines wearing traditional hat, shoes and dress. Such is the art of pottery esteemed that San Rafael – Ibiza’s most famous hub for the craft – has been deemed a zona de interés artesanals, a much admired Spanish honour. So look beneath the surface of the island’s reputation and dive into its rich and checkered past – there are treasures to be found in abundance. If you’d like to organise a shopping tour to check out some of the island’s artisans, contact our guest relations team for some historically-inspired retail therapy.

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