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Craftsman working on a sword in a workshop in Toledo.

A journey to tradition: discover the artisan trades of Castile-La Mancha.

Castilla-La Mancha

Would you like to learn all about the art from those who create it traditionally with their own hands? This is a trip to a different sort of Spanish cultural heritage that has been handed down over many years, a proposal to learn about the artisan trades in Castile–La Mancha. Travel to Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Guadalajara and Toledo and fall in love with the Manchegan craftsmanship.

Albacete, land of knives and folding-blade knives

There are many reasons to visit Albacete; one of them is to learn about its famous artisan knife and folding-blade knife making, which is a national reference point. This tradition dates back to Islamic Spain, which left a big influence on current designs, although the industry has operated in much the same way since the 15th century. To learn all about the history of “Albacete’s knife making”, pay a visit to the Municipal Museum of Knives. What’s more, the best knife manufacturers come together every year at the international knife making fair Ibercut, hosted in Albacete. This Manchegan province is also famous for its clay jars, a medieval art that dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries and which you can learn more about at Albacete Museum. The pot making industry is famous in the region, above all in Villarrobledo, which in the past had up to 72 ovens for baking the clay pots. 

View of a room at the Albacete Municipal Museum of Knives © Museo de la Cuchillería de Albacete

Ciudad Real, famous for its bobbin lace

Bobbin lacemaking is a traditional handmade textile art and one of the most important artisan crafts of Ciudad Real. The province has been a reference point for this craft for centuries; as you can see at the Municipal Museum of Lace and Blonda, which offers a tour through the history of the different techniques as well as displaying a large collection of shawls, handkerchiefs, veils and fans. There are many artisans in Ciudad Real that continue the art of pottery in their workshops, another of the most important traditional trades in the province; in part thanks to the Formma or La Mancha Pottery Museum. Although it has been modernised with new techniques and materials, such as manganese clay, in the province none of the purest essence of pottery has been lost. 

Top: Room in the museum © Formma / Below: Exhibits at Formma, La Mancha Pottery Museum in Ciudad Real © Formma

Cuenca, birthplace of handicrafts in La Mancha

Time moves on, but not when it comes to the artisan trades of Cuenca, which are still as relevant as ever, bringing their cultural wealth to the province with first class products. For many centuries the art of pottery has stood out in the region with artisans using techniques rooted in Islamic art, although there are some also outstanding masters of basketry and metalworking.To appreciate the stunning work produced by the artisans of Cuenca all you need to do is take a stroll though the capital’s old quarter and admire their workshops. You can buy souvenirs such as vases, jugs, teapots, decorative wall plates, etc., or anything else that catches your eye!

Top: Piece of pottery from Cuenca © Cerámica Luis del Castillo / Below: Pottery workshop in Cuenca © Cerámica Luis del Castillo

Guadalajara, home to fibre and leather craftsmanship

Artisan trades have stood the test of time in Guadalajara. The passion for these trades with so much history can be appreciated in the streets, especially when the popular medieval markets or the traditional Guadalajara Spring Craft Fair are celebrated, attracting professionals from all over Spain. From among the different craft trades that are still active today those related to leather making are hugely popular. They are unique products that are hard to find anywhere else; made with every type of luxury details and incredible finishes, for which the traditional techniques have been painstakingly followed.

Reproduction of a historical piece in leather made by an artisan in Guadalajara

Toledo, city of artisans

Craftsmanship oozes from every corner of Toledo, a province renowned for the fantastic handicrafts created by its professional artisans. The World Heritage City boasts an important historical and cultural legacy, and undoubtedly its artisan trades play a big role in it. The traditional art of Toledo par excellence is damascene, an ornamentation used for decorating any type of object. Visit Toledo to be fascinated with pieces of gold work, jewels, swords and furniture decorated by hand with the renowned “Gold of Toledo”. The streets of the old town are home to several of the workshops where you can learn first hand about the secrets of this ancestral technique. Also noteworthy in the province are the swords and the artisan products made with wood, ceramics and ironwork.

Top: Damascene workshop in Toledo © Patronato Municipal de Turismo del Ayuntamiento de Toledo / Below: Example of damascene work © Patronato Municipal de Turismo del Ayuntamiento de Toledo
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