In the past, what we now call handicrafts were used to meet the needs of the islanders and were based on raw materials extracted from the environment itself. Spoons, cheese bowls, mortars, chácaras and other decorative utensils were made of wood. These utensils are made from the wood of the laurisilva trees (viñátigo, heather), but also from imported species such as walnut, chestnut and mulberry. The cords obtained from the trunks of the banana trees are used to make flowers, jewelry boxes, table centers, bread baskets, etc. The stems of the palm are also used to make various artisanal pieces. The shapes and materials of the baskets are varied, the most common being willow and reed. Traditional looms are still used to weave carpets, bedspreads, etc. using old strips of rag and cotton thread. The best example of this can be found in the Juego de Bolas visitor center.
Among the different types of handicrafts, pottery stands out, which has been made by hand and without a potter’s wheel since the time of the indigenous people. It is made from clay, sand and almagre, materials typical of the Midlands. The manufacturing process is relatively simple, but it takes time and dedication. After the vessel to be produced (potato peel, water carafe, milking vessel, brazier, etc.) has been shaped, it is placed in a wood-fired oven to dry. The color obtained will be a light brown, a result that is achieved with the help of the Almagre; in contrast to other islands, which give a dark brown, almost black color. The pottery made in Chipude and El Cercado is distinguished by its rudimentary appearance and tradition.
In addition to these patterns, which are the most typical, we can also find other handicrafts such as crocheting, embroidery, lace, leather, rope, silk, wool, etc. On the island of La Gomera, the handicraft activity is concentrated in the northern region Vallehermoso being the municipality with the largest number of artisans.
Every year the Canary Islands host various craft fairs, folk gatherings, agricultural fairs, etc. to promote the island’s handicrafts. It is worth mentioning the island craft fair held in San Sebastián de la Gomera, where craftsmen from the island and the rest of the archipelago meet, along with other cultural events such as: Silbo Gomero, performances by folk groups, etc.
The Cabildo coordinates participation in trade fairs and other events and financially participates in the management of exhibition spaces and their decoration, in the transport of material and in the presence of institutional representatives. In the same way, Canarian handicrafts are represented at tourism fairs and occasionally also at specialist conferences, with some craftsmen demonstrating their skills “in situ” in order to show future visitors these cultural manifestations as a further element of the tourist offer and thus an attraction within to reach the fair. This is the case with: a potter who makes pottery, who works ristra, wood, etc. Usually these events include some folkloric manifestations, such as the Silbo Gomero.