This week I have asked Emma Campus to take the reigns of This & Tat. I asked Emma, who is currently residing in Portugal, as I thought might be good to get out of the UK bubble. Having directed PR & Communications at some of London's most eponymous luxury fashion labels for 10 years, Emma left it all behind to search for a slower pace of life and a new perspective. Choosing to move to Portugal’s sleepy Southern countryside, she set up Design Escapes Portugal, a platform that explores the country through a unique, curated lens. Now she’s on a mission to build her own collective of residences, restoring and renovating old shepherds refuges, fisherman's huts and farmers houses into beautiful retreats, each with a different character, atmosphere, and story. So as you can see she was perfectly placed to pop that UK bubble and give us an insight into some terrific makers in Portugal.
Pottery is a craft and tradition in Portugal that goes back centuries and has been ingrained in the country's creative culture for generations. It also happens to be my biggest vice when it comes to home purchases. One of my new favourite Portuguese ceramicists, 22-year-old Madalena Telo, is based in the high Monchique mountains of the Algarve and also happens to look like she stepped straight out of a renaissance painting. Growing up as the daughter of a well-known Portuguese potter, she left home to study sculpture and ceramics in Porto and expanded her own technique through various apprenticeships before feeling the pull of her home in the South. Today she works from the same studio as her father, surrounded by clay and forage from the mountains that she uses to create her pieces and natural pigments to materialize visions. I love that her works are a modern reflection of the history that she inherited, but have this unique modern aesthetic that clearly defies traditional Portuguese pottery, a vision perhaps for the next generation of potters.
Having moved from London to rural Portugal, every now and again I crave my city fix. Enter, Lisbon. Flores Textiles is one of my favourite places to drop into on our trips to the city. Located in the heart of my favourite district, Santos, their showroom is piled high with fabrics all made and produced in Portugal. As a true linen disciple, but wanting to weave Portuguese products into our home in a stylish way, I didn’t want to resort to French fabrics, so when Flores came along it was a revelation. Anya works with small yarn spinners, weavers and family-run factories all over Portugal to produce organic, rustic but beautifully elegant pieces. Bed linen, lampshades, table runners, napkins, cushions, even artworks. She’s starting to make her own furniture too in collaboration with local makers. Sign me up!
I discovered Beatriz leafing through a copy of Vogue Portugal I bought during lockdown. The last thing I needed, stuck at home on my sofa, was jewellery but I was completely transfixed by her pieces. I got in touch with her on Instagram to tell her how much I loved her work and we struck up this odd kind of digital friendship. We bonded over her vision for the brand and, with my background in fashion communications, I wanted to help her grow and expand her brand which she started in late 2019. Having honed her silversmith skills in Peru and India, Beatriz handmakes every piece herself which is so rare these days when it comes to jewellery brands that still manage to retain an effortlessly cool elegance. There’s an earthly and rugged quality to her jewellery which reminds me of brands like Alighieri that have shot to cult brand status recently. Needless to say, the piggy bank is growing slowly so I can save up to invest in my first piece...
To be completely honest with you, I have always felt that living in Portugal, renovating your home using Portuguese tiles was a bit naff. Everyone does it. Kitchens, bathrooms, filled with the things. I think even IKEA in Portugal sells tiles…! But then. Along came Elisa Passino, and Elisa does things differently. While her work is inspired by Portugal's history of tiles and beautifully coloured facades, she is especially fascinated by their attribution to architecture. Her patterns are filled with references from Le Corbusier, Ricardo Bofill & Luis Barragan (some of my die-hard faves...top dinner party guests anyone?!). During her research about colours in architecture, she came across the work of photographers such as Matthieu Venot, Jeanette Hägglund, Serge Najjar and with her modern vision for what Portuguese tiles should become, integrates her influences carefully into the composition of her little squares of joy which she makes and fires by hand in Lisbon. I am dreaming of creating a bathroom covered floor to ceiling in her work!
One thing that Portugal does not get enough credit for around the world; it’s WINE! We are now bonafide Portuguese wine snobs and will drink nothing else (smugly guffawing at anyone who suggests ordering a bottle of Whispering Angel at lunch when they come and stay with us. How awful are we?!). It’s just that wine in Portugal is so complex, there are so many varieties, so many grape combinations, but more importantly, so many achingly passionate people making it, and while there are ‘the great traditionalists’ who have been making wine for hundreds of years, there’s a movement of makers who aren’t sticking to the rules. The result is some ridiculously surprising tastes, textures and bottles with labels that would look as good in a frame as they do on a bottle. Menina Uva (Grape Girl!) is one of those bottles. At just 28 years old, Aline Domingues left Paris for the village of Uva in Portugal. She was the youngest of four children born to Portuguese parents, immigrants from Uva, who came to France in search of better economic prosperity and to escape the dictatorship, like so many Portuguese in the 1960s and ‘70s. To re-discover her sense of purpose, she returned to her roots, cultivating her own natural wines which have this heady heightened aromatic nuances of the surrounding moorland brush and wildflowers. And we are so glad she did!
Jade of Escolhido was my first Instagram date! We connected when I first moved to Portugal through a project she is working on in the Algarve with a 200-year-old vineyard and estate, Morgado Do Quintao (which I am completely obsessed with!). One thing we are blessed with here in Portugal is amazing flea markets. Jade scores them and chooses quirky discarded treasures, cleans them up, photographs them beautifully and sells them on her website and through her dreamy Instagram. Ceramic candlesticks, wicker magazine racks, green glass wine bottles from the 1950s, I want it all for my imaginary Algarvian farmhouse surrounded by olive farms and orange groves.
The Alentejo is the biggest region of Portugal that sits just above the sleepy Algarve and stretches from Spain all the way to the Atlantic. The arguably sleepier villages of the inner Alentejo, close to the Spanish border are almost stuck in time. It was in one of these villages, Monsaraz, that I discovered the home of a 100-year-old weaving factory. The factory has recently been bought by a film producer from Lisbon, in order to save it from closure and to protect the age-old tapestry techniques that had been mastered there for decades. Margarida works with the women who work on traditional wooden looms, to create the most beautiful textiles, ensuring that what they are making is appropriate for a modern market. She advises them on patterns, yarns, colours and styles so that the production can continue to be relevant for another 100 years, and helps to sell their pieces all over the world through her website. Fabricaal, the name of her factory, is the perfect example of how to preserve age-old traditions for a modern world.
During a trip to Comporta recently my husband and I were on the hunt for pieces and furniture to fill our imaginary beach house, when we stumbled on the work of Bela Silva, a Portuguese painter and sculptor whose work makes you feel that little bit better about life. I tend to live my life in a flux between wanting to fill my house with creamy textures, white cottons, linens, and earthy minimal tones, or wanting to do the total opposite and fill it with bright, mismatched patterns and colours, objects on every surface and curiosities in every corner. Bela Silva makes me swing every time to the latter. Her work is larger than life, a vibrant world of illustration and imagination where lines, colours and tones are perfectly mastered. As well as her bigger pieces she also creates more ‘practical’ pieces like mugs, plates and vases for which my wishlist is never ending.
CENTA is my go-to for sending flowers to friends in and around Lisbon. Not just flowers, but cocktails too, from their tiny but achingly cool shop in the city, the husband and wife duo who look like they stepped straight out of a Ganni campaign, curate sculptures out of peonies, anemones, calla lilies and snapdragons and post arty pictures of them on Instagram that I only wish I could replicate myself. Presented in huge sheets of crumbled watercolour paper you can’t miss them on their journey around the city to their lucky recipients.
Artur Pastor was a Portuguese photographer who travelled across Portugal from the 1950s until the 1970s, capturing and documenting the essence, the history and the people of the country in the most poetic and ingenuous way. Seas, fields and beaches, towns and countrysides, no place was left behind. Paula of Luz Editions takes the photographs of the pastor and works with artisans in Portugal to screen print them onto beautiful linens. The prints are manufactured by a small sewing workshop in Lisbon and each is hand-printed one by one, using environmentally friendly water-based inks on non-stone washed linens. She creates them to be used as tea towels but I have a series of three framed in our kitchen!