Who could resist a talisman capable of warding off the evil eye, especially one priced at less than $5? This nazar seemed like a lot of good karma for the money — until I got home from Athens and the lapel-pin promptly snapped off the back of the amulet so I couldn’t fix it to my jacket as planned. I was going to repair it, but then it dawned on me that any fetish without sufficient juju to protect itself from harm probably wasn’t capable of safeguarding me, either.
Impulsively buying frivolous souvenirs is one of the pleasures of travel, and over the years I’ve collected my share of gimcrack jewelry, gaudy refrigerator magnets, and the kind of pottery and t-shirts that lose their lettering the very first time they’re washed. But every once in a while I run across something so lovely and unusual that I dig a bit deeper into my budget in order to take home something that will provide lasting satisfaction.
Finding such treasures isn’t always easy, and it’s even more rare to be able to buy them directly from the artist in the studio where they were brought into being. That’s why I was delighted to connect with so many members of Seville’s creative community during last weekend’s 11th annual Barrio Abierto (Open Neighborhood) artwalk. Best of all, I obtained their permission to pass on their contact info, in case any of you want to check out their work next time you’re in town.
What kind of stuff are they working on these days? I'm so glad you asked.
Sculptor Marcos Domínguez was trained in Paris then returned to his home city of Seville to work in wood and stone, creating powerful images of humans, animals, and the natural world. He's just putting the finishing touches on his latest work, Oliva, carved from the stump of an ancient olive tree. Information: marcosescultor.com, facebook.com/marcoscultor. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
German-born Alexander Richter creates powerful, often playful images from metal. The chess set he created for his son has pieces up to a foot high and so heavy you'll think carefully before making a move. Information: fuirio.com. Contact: email@example.com.
Laura loves creating offbeat, mesmerizing images of people who defy the classic concept of beauty. The woman at the far left in the one-piece bathing suit is her mother. Laura and partners Javi and Luis are known as El Pez Camera (the Fish Camera). Nope, I have no idea why. Hey, they're artists. Enough said. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
British-born Nicholas Chandler designs fine wood furniture and furnishings in contemporary styles, often with touches of whimsy. He arrived in Seville 16 years ago during, he says, "a mid-life crisis when my life went pear-shaped." Today he receives commissions from clients around the world. Information: nicholaschandler.com. Contact: email@example.com.
Telita Laboratorio Textil is a sewing cooperative and community space launched by four enterprising young women: Lorenza Conti, an Italian who designs and makes children's clothing; Spanish graphic designer and seamstress Esperanza Covarsí; Ellavled Alcano, a dancer and designer/seamstress from Venezuela; and Danish Fraya Kanuka who creates clothing and gives clown classes to children. Information: barrioabierto.es/telita-laboratorio-textil. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tramallol provides a space for community members to work, play, and cook. During Barrio Abierto, Santiago created a traditional meal from his native city, Valencia, the paella capitol of the world. Rich and I took advantage of the Barrio Abierto special of the day: a couple of plates of superb paella and a two small beers for a lunch with a total price tag of 10 euros ($12). Info and contact: facebook.com/pg/Tramallol.
American wood artist Chris Mott shows off his latest creations: cleverly designed natural wood bottle openers. His day job is teaching English, but woodworking is what he loves doing most. Contact: email@example.com.
I was sorry to have missed this ceramic artist during the Barrio Abierto; I love her sense of style and way of capturing the fluidity of sea creatures. She markets her work under the name PotMic (POTtery ceraMIC). Information: facebook.com/kookinjapotmic. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Miguel Conradi was proud to show me the sinuous mirror he created, hanging above Nick's chair and near Cris's bottle openers in the woodworkers' space known as Hombres de Madera (Men of Wood). Information and contact: Instagram #MiCon Furniture.
If you visit one or more of these artists, you’ll find that getting there is half the fun. They’re located in some of Seville’s quirkiest neighborhoods, just twenty minutes easy stroll from the bustling downtown but a world away from souvenir shops and trendy boutiques. Plaza Pelícano, for instance, was created in the 1920s to house a series of music workshops, mostly flamenco, and the big open spaces are perfect for artists, dancers, a few chickens someone is raising, and my Saturday morning yoga class. The once-upscale Plaza Pumarejo is now the haunt of bohemians and the epicenter of the battle to maintain the area’s local character despite the rising tides of gentrification and tourism. Back in the 19th century, the Paisaje Mallol was the heart of a thriving cork industry (for all those wine bottles!) and today the warehouses, grand homes, and stables are community spaces for work and play.
Arriving at one of the studios or collective workspaces, I find that climbing a crooked stairway or stepping through a massive old iron portal is a bit like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole or entering Harry Potter's Diagon Alley. You never know what you’re going to find. There are those who say the world, like my amulet, has lost its magic, but I say those folks don't know where to look. Just check out this video of local artists making a bottle disappear using nothing but water, the laws of physics, and a little good, old-fashioned wizardry.
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I'm an American travel writer based in Spain and currently living in California.
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