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Cestería Canaria (Canarian Basketry)

Handmade baskets from the Valle de el Palmar

Nowadays, some artisan work is still maintained thanks to the effort and commitment of local artisans, and through promotion in workshops. The cane and wicker baskets used in the past to collect the harvest and carry stones stand out. Local crafts can be purchased in stores or at the craftsman's house, as well as admired at crafts fairs. In practically the whole of the Canary Islands there are basketry centres, in most cases, very rudimentary. Basket weaving was an activity that was closely linked to the rural world, therefore, it was an art oriented towards domestic consumption, which sought the functionality of the product. This was so, until very few years ago. Nowadays, as with most handicrafts, it has become a luxury product, with a basically ornamental purpose.

The material varies according to the island and the type of model to be made. Normally chestnut, follao (Viburnum treleasei), wicker and cane, are used for the toughest jobs as they are very resistant. While the 'colmo', (as rye straw is known, especially on the island of La Palma and El Hierro) and laburnum, are used more in fine basketry, where the purpose is more decorative than practical.

Straw basketry

There are a wide variety of baskets made with straw, for sewing, etc. Usually made with bramble, raffia or threads. The straw baskets are typical of La Guancha and Buenavista, in Tenerife, Ingenio, in Gran Canaria and Breña Alta, Breña Baja and Mazo, in La Palma.

Rod basketry

The hardness of the rod (follao) allows to make very resistant works such as hand baskets, boats, baskets, foxholes, bread and clothes baskets, baskets with covers, baskets or serones. The stick baskets are typical of La Orotava and Los Realejos, in Tenerife as well as in Breña Alta and Breña Baja, in La Palma.

Cane and wicker basketry

Cane and wicker basketry dates from the first years of colonization. It is used to make among other things hand baskets, bread baskets, shrimp pots, reed cages for birds and reed drums to catch moray eels. The traps, drums and cages are built mainly in Icod de los Vinos and San Andrés, in Tenerife, while baskets are more frequent in Los Sauces and Barlovento, in La Palma and Sabinosa in El Hierro. Currently there are very few artisans who work the reed in a traditional way.

Pírgano basketry

The elaboration of pírgano (central nerve of the palm leaf) basketry, depends on the availability of palm groves. Elaboration is a particularly masculine task, due to the considerable physical strength that working with this material requires. This type of basketwork is produced mainly on the island of Gran Canaria. 

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