Ceramics in Portugal deserved dozens of pages in our Book of Honor. From north to south, depending on tradition, production and even the climate, clay was molded and decorated in different ways. But, today, it is the Nisa Pottery that we want to talk about, hosting the craft with Master António Pequito, an 82-year-old man of the land who has worked with clay for seven decades.
When we visited him at his brickworks, one of these Sundays, Mr. Pequito confessed that he would like to be able to change the digits of his age and be 28 again. But, believe us, your desire to share what you know and the energy you show in doing what you love makes many people in their thirties jealous.
The truth is that he had no relationship with pottery when, in 1951, he touched clay for the first time.
Due to his professional career and his willingness to share the craft and space with curious people, he has always been an active voice in promoting Nisa's pottery.
He explained to us that Nisa's ceramics are different from those of the entire country and the merit goes entirely to Serra de São Miguel, right next door. The clay collected there is exceptional when it comes to conserving and cooling water – something that used to be very important when carrying out agricultural tasks in the Alentejo heat. Quartz is also abundant in Serra de São Miguel and, after being cooked several times, broken and passed through a sieve, it is used to decorate ceramic pieces.
Nisa's pottery is known for its designs that pay homage to the region's ancient embroidery. The ornamentation of the vases, canteens, moringues, piporros and canteens is made with a needle and then becomes more prominent with the application of white quartz pebbles. The flower is one of the best-known representations of the region.
Until this moment, we had already understood that Mr. Pequito, in addition to being a clay modeler, also knew how to design and stone the pieces. It was then that we realized that our potter is an expert at throwing clay at the wall. Literally! After collecting the clay in Serra de São Miguel, Mr. Pequito works the batches as he prefers to model them, and part of the clay drying process requires placing it on the painted wall with hydraulic lime to regulate the humidity of the raw material.
The entire Olaria Pequito process is incredibly documented in the ethnographic archive report, carried out in 1986, which we found on YouTube, through the generosity of Manuel Durão. Here we see our host with older utensils, some extra hair, but the same passion as always.
During our visit, António Pequito recalled the golden times of Alentejo pottery, when in addition to the utilitarian and decorative aspects, vases and ornate pieces were a sign of wealth in society.
In 1976, as shown in the RTP report, António Pequito was one of the “last potters of Nisa” and, today, despite efforts to train, he continues to be unique in the subsistence of this art.
Mr. Pequito dedicated his life to pottery, alongside his wife Joaquina, who also welcomed us with a smile. After being a little deprived of his generosity, we were very happy to have physical and material proof of his talent and life's work. Because we can look at orange pieces designed with pebbles and remember Mr. António.
However, it seems to us that he treats human relationships with the same dedication and care with which he handles clay. Perhaps, therefore, the greatest legacy he left us was the tender memory of his sharing and time. As he certainly did, does and will do with others who cross his path.