The tradition comes from the Algarve and the ideas from the world – the TASA Project breathes life into time-honoured crafts
Around eight years ago, a group of designers passionate about the south of Portugal created the Ancestral Techniques Current Solutions Project (TASA), aiming to protect age-old traditional techniques, arts and knowledge handed down from generation to generation. Understanding the potential for preserving and adapting these arts to modern times, they combined design and handicraft, coming up with an innovative approach: the pieces are made using local raw materials, by Algarvean artisans, but given a fresh take by designers from all over the world.
With a network of over 50 artisans connected to 15 designers, the TASA Project has in recent years developed over 70 original pieces made from 11 sustainable, local raw materials: palm, cane, wicker, bulrush, straw, ceramic, wood, linen, wool, tin and cork.
“We want to make something completely different and that goes beyond every other approach used in the past. We took another bold step by introducing a new vision of traditional arts and here the product design and equipment is crucial,” explains João Ministro, head since 2013 of ProactiveTur, which manages TASA.
One of TASA’s major innovations is “mixing different arts in a single piece”, for example, lamps made of cork, clay or tinplate; fruit bowls from straw and wicker; clay pots combined with woven palm; as well as bags in cork, palm or wood. These are just a few of the many pieces featured in the catalogue of items for homes, kitchens, outdoors and accessories, which can be found on the brand’s website.
“Our main goal is to make handicraft a job with a future,” says Ministro. And he stresses that, in addition to maintaining cultural heritage, the project also bears in mind economic and environmental issues: “On one hand we are ensuring the welfare of several elderly artisan families, but on the other, we know that a lot of handicraft disappeared after the introduction of plastic, which is killing the planet, and it is important to return to natural, more ecological materials.”
The objectives for 2018 were to reinforce training programmes, invest in international creative residency packages, and create a new award to recognise the more creative and innovative projects linked to traditional arts. The idea is that, in the future, TASA can respond to the high-demand for its products.
“We are forced to turn down some requests, but this proves that there is great potential.” Three weeks is the minimum wait to create a new piece, seeing as there are very few people who are still masters of the ancient techniques of production.
This new trend has also caught the eye of the high-end hotel business. João Ministro points out that, in the last few years, there has been a growing interest from this sector, which has worked towards “connecting with the region’s identity and culture”.
“The hotels want to stand out for their closeness with the local community and for their support and encouragement of arts and crafts, integrating unique products in their spaces, created by designers and brought to life by Algarvean artisans.” Such is the case of the Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort, which has introduced many TASA works of art around the hotel for clients to admire. Guests staying in suites, for instance, might come across a colourful woven bag, a cork tray, a fruit bowl or some clay pots. The Ozadi Tavira Hotel was the first to adopt this new concept, requesting ceramic and cork lamps for every room. Several followed suit, such as Vila Vita Parc, in Porches, Vila Joya, in Albufeira, and Vila Monte Farm House, in Moncarapacho. In addition to the online store, most items can be found at the TASA shop in Rua de Portugal, in Loulé, or the one in the Anantara resort, in Vilamoura. Prices range from six euros for a cork wine collar, to €200 for a wooden picnic basket.
People seeking these services know what they want. This is a “selected, educated and interested” audience, who wish to enjoy beautiful and functional pieces that have history and are crafted just like in the old days. Thanks to TASA, tradition is in – and it is here to stay.