Form of expression and a means of life
Craftwork is closely linked to the daily life in the Sierra de Aracena and Picos de Aroche. The correlation between the people here and their natural surroundings has meant that different activities in the region, which are closely related to farm and cattle work, have become traditional and have also created crafts which are capable of becoming fine works of art.
This activity, which was originally carried out by shepherds, has created great art collections, like the one in the José Navarro Museum in Cortelazor.
House utensils (plates, spoons, forks, crushers, bowls…) and all kinds of decorative pieces make up the collections of dozens of craftsmen from all over the mountain region where one can discern the skill some have achieved with rudimentary tools.
Wood is essential if we want to understand life in Galaroza. There are a dozen carpenters who work in this village, making it one of the most traditional places in the province of Huelva for this activity. The local carpenters are masters in making homemade furniture like chairs and Sevillian style tables decorated by hand and are manufactured by the Hermanos Valle Company.
Pottery is the craftwork with more history in the region. Los Romeros (Jabugo), Aracena, Aroche or Cortegana associate their recent past with sculpted clay in different shapes and for different uses, like pitchers, flower pots or earthenware jars.
In Aroche, this same activity is focused on highly-valued solid fired bricks which are in great demand and manufactured by the Duarte Rivas family.
Cortegana also has representatives of unique mountain region pottry, decorated by hand with a characteristic drawing obtained by a spoon. The only workshop still existing which makes this kind of pieces is here and is run by Enrique Vázquez and Isabel Coronado.
Another craft activity with great tradition in the area is saddlery and leather craft. One of the workshops dedicated to this activity is that belonging to Luis González Armijo in Aroche. The old farm work used to require special clothes like leather chaps or gaiters which were made with skill and care by the hands of the master leather makers.
The work on articles for daily work use has, over the years, been refocused to other goods like purses, belts, bags, backpacks or sandals, which are all unique, 100% handmade and produced on a small scale, like the leather goods made by the firm Azopiel in Aracena.
Other villages like Cortegana, Almonaster la Real, Cortelazor la Real or the neighbourhood of Calabacino (Alájar) also conserve the essence of one of the most ancient arts in history.
IRON AND WROUGHT-IRON
Iron work is another essential aspect of craftwork in the Natural Park. Artistic wrought-iron is made in Aracena (Antonio Nogales and Manuel R. Rodríguez), Cortegana (Antonio López), or in Encinasola (Francisco and Antonio Díaz), with a range of bars, iron doors and all types of design home furnishings.
Cortegana, on the other hand, focuses more on the manufacture of horse-riding equipment made by the companies Frenería y Romanas López and Artesanía del Hierro Roldán.
In Cortegana you can also find one of the last companies in Spain which manufactures the popular steelyard (Frenería and Romanas López), a weighing system which is used during the cork season and during the slaughter of the Iberian pig.
The presence of olive trees in the large surrounding areas of the villages Zufre, Cañaveral de León or Hinojales means there is a constant supply of flexible canes for the manufacture of shopping baskets or baskets for collecting wild mushrooms and other products in the countryside.
Although it is a trade which is falling into oblivion, there are still some elderly folk in Cortegana, Galaroza or Hinojales who still weave baskets with olive canes and wicker.
Aracena recently lost one of its most prestigious embroiderers, Antonia Noja, who has left us a museum as a legacy of her prolific work. Here you can see all types of traditional work and her replicas of contemporary paintings embroidered by hand.
Other villages like Encinasola or Cortegana have a long tradition of embroidery in gold on religious garments. The workshops in this village have made some extremely elaborate work for all over Spain and the trade is still taught in the Pilar Macías Romero town workshops. Encinasola also has a large number of embroiderers which have been trained in the workshop promoted decades ago by Ro-salía Gómez.
Over the last few years a widespread Arab influenced textile technique called patchwork has been introduced into the mountain region. The company Artepatchwork, directed by Mirvia Aranda, is in charge of showing the art of patchwork in the different town workshops.
The best examples of the art of paving in the mountain region can be found in Alájar and Linares de la Sierra. The popular doorsteps are the villagers best welcoming. Floral, geometrical, animal or abstract motifs come together on these stone doormats in most parts of the mountain region. age celebrations and are worth visiting.