Pilar Gaviria is a woman from northern Spain, married to a Lagarteran, who has been in the village since the 1970s. She values the traditions of Lagartera such as a love of ceramics, religious carvings and paintings, and the traditional costume. Much of her work consists of restoring old objects, like broken dishes, and if you ask about her, people tell you ‘Pili is really good with her hands’.
She is a craftswoman, and has learned the techniques she needs to revive a beloved object. But Pilar is also an artist, she does creative work, such as oil or watercolor paintings.
For people who don’t know Lagartera, one tradition we have here is ‘el portal’, the entrance of an old house where there are displays of pottery from Puente del Arzobispo, Talavera, and also further afield, for example Manises in Valencia. As Lagartera has been a village of craftswomen, the embroiders here appreciate the work and skill of craftsmanship in other fields. The pioneers who sold Lagarteran embroideries all over Spain came back with souvenirs from their travels. So, many houses in the village have small museums of antique pottery in the entrance hall. If a plate or a jug inherited from a grandmother breaks, it might feel like a tragedy, if it weren’t for Pilar, who has the patience and love that it takes to bring the broken object back to life.
Here a plate with a typical Puente design, which has suffered a small accident, before and after being mended.
This jug, also from Puente, needed a little more work.
Here we have very nice traditional design depicting swallows, on a large plate. Restoring ceramics that someone with less knowledge has already tried to fix is complicated, because first you have to undo the initial repair work, that is, break it and glue it back together.
Sometimes small pieces are missing, and have to be reconstructed.
And other times the missing pieces are quite big. Here Pili shows us how she has reconstructed a jug handle.
It’s quite a complicated task that needs patience.
And here she has accomplished what at first might seem to be an impossible task, joining all these pieces together.
Another tradition in Lagartera is to collect carvings, statues, and above all, religious paintings, or ‘saints’. Some houses even have a whole room reserved for religious paintings. Traditionally, in the larger houses it was an inner hallway, which gave access to the bedrooms. In smaller houses, there are sometimes ‘saints’ hanging along the staircase.
Here is a little angel in need of TLC.
And here are two paintings. Pilar not only restores religious objects but also paints ‘saints’ in the old style, on glass It is an ancient and difficult technique. She also makes frames with the dove (symbolizing the Holy Spirit) at the top of the frame.
You can see that Pilar likes Lagarteran traditions.
And she even mends antique costumes.
Pilar has also painted many pictures, with watercolor, oil, palette knife … she likes to experiment and learn to do things better. Here are three of her paintings with Lagarteran themes.
A window in the Corredera, the prettiest square in the town.
A watercolor of two women dressed in the traditional costume.
A woman wearing the wedding dress version of the costume, oil on canvas.
Pilar Gaviria enriches the village by helping to preserve traditions with her restoration of antique objects. She combines her work as a craftswoman with more creative work as a painter. A connection between craftsmanship and art has always existed in Lagartera. Lagarteran girls learned to embroider from an early age, and so they learned how to combine colours, and what traditional designs were most suitable for the embroidered pieces. Embroiderers could both work to order on other people’s projects, and design their own projects, like a bedspread for a bride in the family. In the nearby town of Puente del Arzobispo, the people who learned to draw and paint ceramic decorations, a repetitive job, could also use these skills for painting on paper or linen if they wanted to. Craftsmanship teaches self-discipline and persistence, virtues which, along with with practice, help us to improve our skills. Once we have become skilful enough, creativity can flourish.
Alison Lever, Lagartera, Toledo, July 2022
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