The mixture of styles and artistic influences, including the Christian influence, lend the various crafts a special character. Inlaid wood, ceramics, luthiers, brassware, embroidered rugs and embossed leather are all special here in this area. Although adapted to changing times, they continue to accurately reflect the idiosyncrasies and traditions of the local people.
Pottery is of Muslim origin and comes in many different styles. This art has always been present in the province and it has continually evolved with the times. Initially, the pieces were linked with the traditional ways of life of rural society and closely linked to work in the fields. Some of the pieces were sold across Andalusia, Murcia and La Mancha and were named after the town in which they were produced. This is how the Anafres (pots) de Alhama, Botijos (jugs) de Gallo de Almuñécar, the Orzas (earthenware jars) de Huéscar were given their names. However, the mid-20th century rural areas experienced a radical change that influenced the production of these objects. Mechanised farming and the development of the media encouraged migration to the cities. New materials and cheaper earthenware, porcelain and stainless steel replaced the traditional ceramic kitchenware. This led to the production of more decorative pieces that we can see today.
These jars are made near the town of Hoya de Guadix, thought to be one of the most traditional pottery styles of the region. These unglazed Baroque earthenware objects are covered with fantastical ornamental details. On its handles there are two pyramids that extend out and turn into birds. They are decorated with flowers, leaves, roosters and masks. Guadix is where the ‘Zalona’ (a high vessel with a wide mouth used for wine in the north of the province) is made. The production is thriving, with the famous Purullenas, Zambombas, Lebrillos and Candiles complete the range. The Jarra Accitana also has an important symbolic value, into which wedding guests place their monetary gifts.
Pottery making in Granada, Jun, Cortes de Baza, Monachil and Órgiva follows traditional techniques, patterns and decorations used in the Moorish period. Later the Christians adopted these methods too. Fajalauza pottery is glazed and decorated, and the colours and textures play an important role. A typical type of pottery from Granada is Fajalauza. It takes its name from the medieval city gate that led to the neighbourhood of potters in the 16th century. Once the object is created, it is then fired for the first time. It is immersed in a bath of tin oxide to set it and to give it its white background. The object is glazed with cobalt oxide and copper to get the characteristic blue and green tones. The process ends with a third firing. The dishes, pots, jars and tiles are decorated with the silhouette of Granada, birds and floral motifs. In the late 19th century, when the country plunged into a crisis of national identity people such as Angel Ganivet, Manuel de Falla and Federico García Lorca searched for the lost essence in popular culture. One of the aspects they identified was the culture of craftsmanship in Granada, which is steeped in Muslim tradition. Techniques such as the Fajalauza and the ceramic califal were made popular again. Many local artists have spent decades experimenting with shapes, materials and decoration, creating a new and original pieces.
The Muslims introduced inlaying into Spain. The first workshop was set up in Córdoba in the 12th century. It was inspired by the ornamental embossing and painting of leather. The technical and decorative elements were developed by the Moors and later adopted by the Christian settlers. Marquetry, which combines different types and tones of wood and metals, was also developed at the same time. Geometric patterns were used to decorate coffers, chests, writing desks, chessboards and tables. There are some workshops that use machines and that replace wood with cheaper materials such as plastics. However traditional workshops still exist and use traditional methods and precious woods such as ebony, mahogany, cedar, walnut and orange tree wood. The geometric patterns were inspired by the ornamental motifs in the Alhambra.
Christian culture has left its mark on the timber trade, creating what is known as Renaissance-style furniture. It was popular throughout the whole of Spain thanks to the important work of an outstanding group of carpenters in the city in the early 20th century. Inspired by a few pieces of furniture made at the time of the Catholic Monarchs in the 16th and 17th the style was developed further to make cabinets, tables and bedroom furniture. They integrated the richness of the early Renaissance with the sobriety of the elements from church altarpieces. Items were decorated with masks, grotesques, floral decorations, and figures.
Two of the main Luthier schools are located in Granada and Madrid. Most stringed musical instruments for the most famous national and international soloists and professionals are made here. The classical and flamenco guitars are made by hand, requiring skills in carpentry, marquetry and varnishing, as well as a talent for music. These artists work with carefully selected woods, such as German spruce or Honduran cedar. Cypress is the national wood used for some components. Each type of wood is used for a particular part of the instrument. The school in Granada trained the famous instrument maker Eduardo Ferrer who continues to work in the Albaicín. In towns in the province such as Baza, Lanjarón, La Taha and La Zubia, you will find excellent guitars, baroque lutes, mandolins and basses.
Granada has some great wood carvers devoted to sculpture and religious imagery. They have been trained like Alonso Cano was trained. His followers have created intricate thrones for Semana Santa, as well as venerated images found in many churches across the province.
The young blacksmiths and tinkers of today have helped to recover this traditional craft dramatically. The forges and workshops of the Albaicín and the Sacromonte districts still work as they did a long time ago. Here you will hear the echoes of the metallic sound of chisels. The copper kettle was built for many years as a symbol of the craft. The pots and other copper objects decorated the walls of the caves of the Sacromonte. Over the years copper was replaced by brass, as it was cheaper and easier to work with. Therefore new items were created including lamps, umbrella stands and magazine racks. Many flamenco songs about history and traditional legends have been created in the blacksmith workshops in the Albaicín.
The heyday of Granada leather was in the 20th century. This is when the tradition of embossing leather began. To do this, the craftsman himself has to be able to draw his designs, engrave them and emboss them. The motifs range from the figurative to the geometrical. The classic designs are used to make chessboards, boxes, desk accessories and other items.