The potteries of São Pedro de Corval
Have you noticed that most souvenir shops in Portugal sell a lot of pottery? Plates, cups and bowls are decorated in colourful patterns or simply left plain, showing the pretty brown of the clay. When you check the bottom of these items, chances are you will see the words “São Pedro de Corval”. This is a village in the Alentejo where more than twenty artisanal pottery workshops produce a big part of the countries pottery. Visiting this village is a joy, watching the master potters at work.
In the Alentejo, the practice of making utensils out of clay goes back for centuries. Of course nowadays we have machines to make production easier, but in Corval the artisanal tradition is being kept alive. The clay is moulded by hand on the potter’s wheel. Then the piece is baked in a wood oven, and finally painted, again by hand.
Door to door
You can choose a pottery to watch this process take place. It’s nice to visit more than one so you can see some differences. Some of them are still extremely traditional, some of them have a more modern touch. There are 21 to choose from, many of them located along the Rua da Primavera.
Casa do Barro
Do not miss out on the Casa do Barro, an interpretation centre that explains more about the history, the clay and the techniques of making ceramics. It was created through the refurbishment of one of the oldest potteries in the village. Here you can discover why all of the four elements – earth, wind, fire and water – are crucial to the production.
São Pedro de Corval is located in the eastern part of the Alentejo, not far from the Spanish border. It’s close to beautiful places like Reguengoz de Monsaraz, Monsaraz and the Alqueva reservoir. It’s best to arrange your own transportation to get to Corval, as public transport will take up a lot of time. Or go there on an organised tour with a guide.
An online list of all potteries (olarias) in Corval is presented by the municipality. The page is in Portuguese, but the names of the potteries will not need any translation.
If you want to book a tour to São Pedro de Corval you can do so here. To get a sneak preview of the work there is a really nice Instagram account called Celia Macedo Ceramics. She works in São Pedro de Corval, together with Master Tavares and a cute cat.