El Born has a six-centuries-long-established tradition of craftsmanship and its spirit of creating unique pieces of fashion, jewellery, bags or household items has remained intact.
The area is a staple of bohemian and historical Barcelona. Today when everybody’s looking for the ‘like a local’ way of travelling and living abroad, El Born with its narrow Gothic streets and museums, bars, cafes and restaurants but also boutiques, galleries and workshops, is one of the areas of Barcelona where one can actually have the real taste of the everyday life of the city, enjoy the local way of going out and meet the local artists.
I like to come here as often as possible and here is a brief list of just a few of the creators I spoke with. Each of them does very diverse thing still what they all have in common is that their designs, be it garments, bags, jewellery or souvenirs, are entirely conceived and handmade right here, in the workshops-studios-shops of El Born.
Boutique and workshop for handcrafted jewellery in silver, gold and fair trade materials, Espai Micra was founded by artisans Adriana Diaz and Emilie Bliguet. Two other designers, Anne Waha and Lourdes Freixa, have then joined. They create handmade jewellery and special designs on request and everything is designed and finished in the store. Each of the artisans has her workplace here and it is a pleasure to have a chat with them (in my case it was with Adriana) about how they work and create the jewels.
C/ D’en Rosic, 6 | https://www.facebook.com/Espai-Micra
Alamar is a craft shop for textile bags and ceramics for home décor created by two artisans. Moreno designs originally handcrafted handbags with patchworks of vintage textiles, hand printed linen and furnishing fabrics, while Miriam is the author of an impressive collection of beautifully coloured and glazed ceramic fish, all of them local species from the Mediterranean.
C/ de l’Esquirol, 5 | http://www.alamar.barcelona/
When I visited the shop I met Giada aka Ecologina, who recently joined the space of Altamar teaming up with Marta Paños Ollé. You can find here ceramics, jewellery and clothes, recycled and upcycled and turned into original new pieces, needless to say that hand manufactured, from start to finish, here in Barcelona.
C/ de l’Esquirol, 3 | https://www.facebook.com/altamar.bcn
Using traditional techniques and natural materials they create the pieces one by one and have limited editions of original design and quality craftsmanship that age beautifully and gain character over the years offering a contemporary interpretation of timeless styles.
C/ Cotoners, 12 | http://iriarteiriarte.com/
Fashion designer Montsé Liarte participated in no less than six editions of the 080 Barcelona, the most important fashion show in Barcelona. In 2013 she moved away from catwalks and chose a new path by opening her own boutique-atelier. The creations are all handmade and combine fashion, handcrafted design and photography in unique pieces like this handmade stitched silk scarves series Wild is the Wind which caught my attention as I entered the store. The design also has a poem – which you can read here.
C/ Banys Vells, 5 | http://montseliarte.com/
Overall this area of the El Born offers a unique opportunity to see the creative Barcelona and meet the local artisans and a great alternative to the trade of large brands and an opportunity to support the local artisans. If interested in the history of the area, take two more minutes to read on…
The Historical Trade Streets of El Born
When walking through El Born district you come across many streets baring names of manufacture trades such as Sabateria (shoe-making), Assaonador (tanning), Argenteria (silver smith) or Cotoners (cotton trading). Their names are the legacies of the workshops set up by Barcelona’s most important guilds and organisations in the late Middle Ages. Groups of artisans, dedicated to the same trade, set themselves up on a corporate basis to cater to the common needs of all their members.*
Every guild had its own guidelines and rules and they usually set up their premises on the same street and became the most important group of artisans with the result that the street adopted the name of this particular craft or trade.
The trade on Calle de la Argenteria was focused on the precious metals. They say it was the brightest street in Barcelona because of the shine of the jewellery and also that it was the first street in Barcelona to have sidewalks to facilitate the transit of people and carriages.
On Calle dels Vigatans there was a hostel frequented by merchants dedicated to the trade of beams. Very close to that place is the street of Cotoners – of the cotton traders, whose guild dates from 1433, although they were already represented in the Municipal Council from 1257.
Continuing to the Plaça de Santa Maria we find many streets with names of guilds or related to them: Sombrerers was the street of hatters and the ordinances of this guild date from 1545; Mirallers was dedicated to the manufacture of mirrors (miralls) and it seems that there is documentary evidence that in 1492 the guild was already known by that name. Caputxes is the street where there were the workshops made hoods; Abaixadors (tundidores or cloth shearers), whose ordinances date from 1456, separated from the brotherhood of the wool weavers; on Agullers, artisans dedicated to the manufacture of needles and tools for fishing, since 1786 (until their separation had been part of a joint guild with locksmiths and gunsmiths). Finally, we find Canvis Vells street where, in the thirteenth century were the merchants who were dedicated to currency exchange.