Domingos Vaz, Cane Basketry

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Born in the South of Portugal, Domingos Vaz began learning the craft in a very organic manner. Although he was one of the first to leave town to study and later completed civil engineering, the passion for cane and all that is nature related always accompanied him, and he has been fully dedicated to the art since his retirement.

Name of Craft in the local language
Cestaria de cana
Type of Craft
Cane basketry
Knowledge Holder
Domingos Vaz
Location, Website
Faro and Odeleite, Portugal
Contact
drvaz@hotmail.com / +351 918 912 525
Type of Business
Newly founded; manufacture undertaken at home.
Year of Establishment
2011
Successors
No

Workshop and sales space
20m2
Materials
Wild harvested cane
Technology / Tools / Machines
Pocket knife
Techniques / Processes
Woven and coiled / Remove bark, split, cut and weave
Members / Employees
1
Apprentices
Not able to find an apprentice or a successor to ensure the continuation of the craft
Education of the Craftsperson
Learned as a child, with his grandparents, parents and brothers, before attending school; Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from ISEL - Instituto Superior de Engenharia de Lisboa

Best-selling product
Basket with lid
Average time of production
Between 4 and 5 hours
Average price per item
20 EUR

Born in Odeleite, a small town in the South of Portugal known as “capital of cane basketry”, Domingos Vaz began learning the craft in a very organic way, from watching older people working.

Like most other kids in his village, he started by making small toys and baskets that wouldn’t require the use of a knife, and gradually began developing pieces that required more strength and to be cut with tools. Everyone learned the craft as a means of survival – to make objects for use in agriculture and shepherding, and to sell, using what the land gave them. One of the first to leave his hometown to continue studies where there was school beyond the compulsory education (4th grade), at 35 he went to university in Lisbon to realize a degree in civil engineering as a student-worker on the railways, becoming then promoted to technician. However, the passion for cane and all that is nature related always accompanied him, and he has been fully dedicated to the art since his retirement, in 2011.

Domingos Vaz considers having two workspaces. He works most often from the garage in the apartment building where he lives in Faro because it’s a short walking distance from home. This space is about 20m2 large, with a door that opens to the street, bringing in good light. However, he also frequently works in his hometown, Odeleite, as this is where he finds the best conditions for this craft. As Domingos states, “this is a work to be done outdoors, next to the cane plots” because making a basket requires a free area with a dimension of at least two meters so that the canes can be laid out.

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Cane is wild harvested between the end of Summer and the beginning of Spring, and immediately cleansed of leaves and knots.

It can be cut with a pocket knife or a handsaw, and must be prepared while it’s still green, to be used throughout the year. It’s usually placed in a bucket of water to preserve humidity. To begin a basket, the canes are split one by one with a knife or pocket knife, crossing the “false knots” longitudinally in the middle of the cane, being careful not to break it. These cane halves are then “slatted” into narrower sections and their interior is stripped in order to maintain the exterior “glaze”, as this is what gives them their resistance. The number and thickness of the “slats” depends on their function in the basket and also on the type of object to be produced. 

To produce the slats used in the structure of a bottom, the cane is split into eight sections or more, always an even number, while to “weave” the bottom or the “wall” it is more thinly slatted.

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    The best-selling product is the oval shaped basket with a lid, made world famous by British-French actress and singer Jane Birkin, and traditionally used to transport and store vegetables, eggs or fruit.

Besides this “star” product, he also makes all sorts of baskets and continues the local tradition of making small toys, most of which are whistles that imitate regional birds, such as the nightingale and the owl, or instruments like the reco-reco, a percussion instrument made from a sawtooth notched cylindrical body and played with a wooden stick.

 

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