A Local Tradition
Traditionally, Porches has been known for producing ceramics in the Algarve. The clay in the ground there was particularly suitable for pottery. Craftsmen practised the red clay tradition until the early 1960’s when only a few potters remained. Porches still has the name of a ceramics village and that tradition is certainly alive and well.
Ceramics of all kinds
It is particularly just outside the picturesque village of Porches where you can visit quite a few ceramics shops. The painted pieces do not have the look of mass-produced items from China. Under each carefully made plate or bowl is the monogram of the maker.
You can also go for terra cotta outdoor pots or wall lamps although this market is shrinking with the advent of large DIY stores. With their cheaper imported pots of inferior quality, they are destroying this local market. Fortunately, there is a renewed interest in handmade products that will allow Porches to keep its name.
Olaria Pequena/The Little Pottery
Most ceramic shops can be found on the N125 , the provincial road that runs from east to west Algarve. First up is ‘Olaria Pequena’ or ‘The little pottery’ at the N125 roundabout next to the village. This is a warm and attractively decorated shop whose owner is of Irish descent. This ceramicist’s pottery is recognisable by its modern yet Portuguese look.
While enjoying classical music, you will be guided through his shop where you will find new treasures in every nook and cranny. From large bowls painted with almost abstract lemons to unusual lamp bases with expressive splashwork in the glaze.
Daughter Molly also has ceramist blood running through her veins. She has completed her training and is now working on her own collection.
Casa Grada, ceramists gathered
We first visit the shops on the right side of the N125 and then those on the left because you are not allowed to cross the road until the roundabout near the International School. So on the same side of the road after about 1 kilometre is Casa Grada. This is a large shop where as many as 50 ceramists are represented. Part of the shop is reserved for a small museum where you can admire old pieces made by local artisans from a distant past.
If you continue the road and drive back the same way via the next roundabout, you will find ‘Porches Pottery’ after about 800 metres. This historic building is worth seeing in itself. Upon entering, you immediately have a view of the workshop where several women are busy decorating tableware. Within the floral painting style, you will find series such as ‘Rambling Rose’ and ‘Queen’s Earring’. To recover from all the impressions, enjoy a lunch of homemade quiche or something else from the attractive lunch menu on the adjacent terrace of ‘Bar Bacchus’.
The next pottery is a little further up a hill. Recognisable by the man-sized antique pots displayed next to the driveway. At lunchtime it can be busy here as you can also have a hot meal in the back garden or in the “conservatory” that used to be used for drying the newly turned moulds.
Back in Porches, you will find pottery Reis next to the Pharmacy. Behind the shop’s cash register is a large kiln in which the painted pottery is baked at more than 1,000 degrees. Mrs Reis paints cheerful flowers typical of Porches’ traditional decorative style.
On the road towards Alporchinos, which also belongs to the municipality of Porches is ‘Casa Malha’. This lovingly decorated shop is run by an elderly couple. They make all the products themselves. The friendly elderly woman has a workstation in the middle of the shop where she decorates the tableware. With a steady hand, she sets smooth brushstrokes in the recognisable cobalt blue or any of the other colours within her reach.
Porches offers something for every taste. Hopefully, more new ceramists will take over the shops and workshops in the future so that these authentic artisanal products can be carried as souvenirs in the suitcase for a long time to come.