Manuel did a training in Heritage Conservation - Furniture in bulrush. To support this art and encourage its continuity, the local municipality donated a space, tools and raw material for the new craftsmen to begin a small business. Four years later, only Manuel endured. He wild-harvests his own material locally along the river, and is always open to training others in the craft.
To support this art and encourage its continuity, the Municipality of Santarém donated a space, the tools used during the course and the raw material left over from the internship, allowing them to start a small business. Little by little, others gave up and, 4 years later, only Manuel went on making furniture in bulrush. He is passionate about his craft and carries on, giving workshops and always looking forward to welcoming new people to come and work with him. At this time, he has 2 people over once or twice a week for training, but they can’t dedicate themselves more due to a lack of financial support, thus having to split their time with other professional activities. Manuel wild-harvests his own material locally along the river.
Located within the Former Calvary School in Santarém, a huge and typical state building from this period, in concrete and built in the 1950’s. Shared with an artisan who works soft-rush basketry, Manuel works completely surrounded by bulrush stems – all over the walls and floor – within a 10m2 area, with decent natural light, and a water point just outside the door, that was especially set up for them by the municipality.
Work is done sitting on a low bench, holding between legs the object to be made. In general, the stems used to weave are kept on one side and the “filler” on the other. The “mancheia” (handful) makes up the right amount to form the filling of the “slices”, that are woven and overlapped.
Harvesting is done once a year for use along the year, always preparing the amount necessary the evening before each work day. The stems are cut at about 80 cm from bottom to top, moistening the lower part overnight. This part is used for weaving and the upper part is used as filling.
A container with water serves to keep the ends and filler slightly wet, and water is also used to keep hands moist to protect the skin. Tools used are a razor/knife (to trim excess material and cut imperfections at the end of each work), a “pazelha” (wooden wedge that serves to push the excess straw to the inside of the piece), a needle (made of steel, a wooden handle, and with a hole at its end to pass the fiber through, like in sewing), and a watering can.