Citinerary is an international network of passionate citizens who share stories and meet visitors. An exchange of culture & lifestyle. This summer we regularly repost some of their specially selected articles on Amsterdam, Bucharest and Madrid. Today: correspondent Olga writes about Madrid’s artisanal movement.
By going back to how things were done thirty, forty, fifty years ago, Madrid is, simultaneously, stepping forward by joining in with the Artisanal Movement.
It is quite subtle, and by those who don’t diverge from their usual paths, it will be unnoticed. But in the shopfronts along Madrid’s alleyways and streets, or hidden up high in studio spaces, there are many beautiful things being sculpted out – be it bread loaves, shoes, tarts or ceramic cups – by the very hands of their creators, individual Madrilenians who, through their crafts(wo)manship, are the creative metamorphosis that Madrid is undergoing.
The trend in the appearance of local businesses that, usually through manual labour, focus on the creation of unique, high quality products is perhaps an old story in many modern cities. However, this trend is a new story in Madrid.
A changing ‘other’ mindset
Despite years weighed down by the economic crisis, and a mentality more skewed towards preserving tradition – this is how we do things because this is how they have always been done – Madrid’s inhabitants are suddenly being lured into new places: stores and workshops run by Madrid’s craftswomen and men who are – through their product – introducing Madrilenians to the other: the other recipe, the other way of dressing, the other way of decorating a lounge room.
By offering a hand-made product – one synonymous with quality and originality and a craftsperson’s dedication and aptitude – Madrid’s artesian pioneers are also introducing their customers to universal considerations about simplicity: the act of engining with the products that we choose to incorporate into outlives, about the consequences of our choices as a consumer, about supporting our immediate community, our neighbours and therefore, our cities.
Each shopfront or concept is, in a sense, a cover behind which a whole book exists. We entered behind the scenes of two projects to find out the stories of the individuals who are in the process of making a better city for their fellow neighbours.
Panic: the way we eat.
Passers-by step in – rather tentatively – into Javier Marca’s bakery, Panic, with a curiosity: what is that smell? There are more than enoughpanaderías strewn about the streets that thread this city together, yet unlike all the other places, Panic is causing a bit of a fuss: it is appearing in various articles, blogs and conversations.
Together with his team, Javier is reminding Madrilenians what bread used to be like: decades ago, when (if you are above the age of 25 or so) you would sit by the table as your grandparents prepared supper consisting of two slices of thick, crusty sourdough bread covered in fresh – sometimes homemade – butter.
“I’ve had a few señoras and señores come in to tell me that, after having tried our bread, they thought that this kind of bread – real bread – was lost forever,” Javier remarks when we talk about the clients’ response to his rather revolutionary alternative in Madrid’s baked-goods scene.
Panic was born out of reflection which was, in turn, induced by the economic crisis that harshly hit Spain in 2008. Javier’s work as a graphic designer was slowing down, and so one day he sat and thought: what else could I do?
Bread was something that Javier has always been perfecting in his house, and at the time of his life re-evaluation, it was something that made him think: why does my bread taste better than the bread from the bakery down the road from my house? This notion, together with Javier’s belief that, in terms of gastronomy, Madrid is years behind some of the other European metropolises, prompted Javier to start talking about bread.
Despite the ubiquity of bread in Spanish cuisine, there is no attention to its quality. “People here have become used to eating white fluffy tasteless bread,” Javier comments, “The bread that is served these days is really just a result of business: the aim of the game being to make as much bread as possible in as little time.”
Javier invests something else into his craft as bread-maker: quality, natural products and time, lots of time. “The recipe itself is not as important, the key are the ingredients and time that bread requires to grow. This is what the other bakeries do not invest in and this is what is most needed.
In as little as a year and a half, demand for Panic’s bread – from both individual clients as well as restaurants, bars and cafes – is exceeding demand. Yes, Madrilenians are embracing other ways of looking at the way they eat.
Dollagui Cerámica : the way we accumulate.
It feels so good to just dig your hands into things, get them dirty; there is something almost instinctual about this basic act. It feels even better getting your hands dirty and being able to make something functional with them.
Saul Galeano – the creator of Dollagui Cerámica, a studio that functions as both a pottery shop and workshop – gave Adrian and myself the opportunity to realise this instinctual call in the form of a pottery class.
Making and teaching how to make pottery was not exactly Saul’s life-long dream, it was a hobby. Again, it was Spain’s economic crisis that threw Saul into the terrifying deep-end when he was let-go from his stable job as a banker, and compelled him to consider another means of living.
We sit in the middle of the gorgeous little studio, located in Madrid’s diverse Lavapiés neighbourhood, at a desk made of a plank of wood supported by basic wooden stands, and let our hands go wild with a brick of clay. It is hot but because evening is approaching, there is a slight wind coming through the door, and as we sculpt away – using an array of tools such as peeling knives and sea-shells and more specialised implements – we also chat, listen to jazz, and every so often, put into practice Saul’s tricks-of-the-trade.
From time to time, passers-by pop their heads into the studio, intrigued not only by our set-up, but also by the unique collections of bowls and cups and vases and plates of infinite shapes and colour coordinations that sit at the shop window and across the shop’s walls. Each piece is one of a kind, a piece that is not only made of a result of hours and hours of manual labour, but also top-quality, lead-free clay which is especially imported from Buño, a small town in the north of Spain known for its pottery.
The long, yet immersing process of making a simple bowl prompts us to discuss the difference between buying a product from a small place such as Saul’s versus an anonymous product from a large chain market: the way we accumulate large amounts of often meaningless products isn’t a necessity, but a habit.
The studio is daily hours of dedication, it is having many things to think about at the same time – the classes, the students, sales, bills, rent, the temperature of the oven – but Saul feels free, he is happy; and when he thinks of his job working in the bank, it seems almost like another life, a life he would not want to live again.
Let’s take it slow
Take it slow: this is what we went home with after each of our chats with the inspiring individuals who are swimming against the current of fast, efficient production, and instead making things with utter engagement. Whatever you are doing, who ever you are with, take it slow.
– Olga –