Regarding handcrafts, Peniche is not only rich due to the famous “renda de bilro”
(bobbin lace), but also thanks to other handcrafts which, although not
as well known, are also important to the tourist propagation of Peniche.
The bobbin lace craftswomen, as well as those
working with other handcrafts, are framed and represented by four
associations: the Escola de Rendas de Bilros (Bobbin Lace School ), the Associação Peniche Rendibilros (Rendibilros Peniche Association), the Associação dos Artesãos de Santa Maria (Santa Maria Craftsmen Association) and the ALA – Associação Local de Artes (Local Arts Association – ALA).
The Local Arts Association began in 1994, and has more than 50 crafters working in many forms of handcrafting expressions. With headquarters in ‘Fortaleza de Peniche’, it is in this majestic landscape of the historical heritage of Peniche that some of the ALA crafters developed their handcraft activities, and where it is possible to witness their work first hand. The ALA artisans use a diverse range of materials such as: works in limestone
original and unique to the Peniche beaches, woodwork, such as miniature
representations of vessels, and surf related woodwork, representations
of Peniche people in hardened fabric, pottery and painting works.
The exact beginning of bobbin lace work in
Peniche is hard to pinpoint precisely, however it is unquestionable that
already in the 17th century the bobbins sticks wriggled in
the cylindrical pillows of the Peniche women, giving life to almost
naïve forms of drawings traced in the saffron colouredpiqué fabric, as a witness in 1625 reports a lace gift, and a few years later, the painter Josefa de Óbidos includes the theme in many of her paintings. On the other hand, as throughout the Brazilian coast there are the “beach lace”
crafts, with artefacts and techniques very similar to those used by the
Peniche lace makers, it is fair to assume that, in the beginning of the
17th century, during the migration waves and re-settlement
of Brazil, the craft might have gone to Brazil with the wives of the
fisherman that have migrated there from the Peniche region, a popular
craft that the Peniche women have naturally diffused in the lands of Vera Cruz (Brazil’s former name).
However, the quality and originality of the
Peniche bobbin lace reached such level of perfection and exposure, that
all and every Portuguese bobbin lace has become known simply as Peniche Lace.
Amidst the 19th
century there were almost a thousand lace makers in Peniche and,
according to Pedro Cervantes de Carvalho Figueira, eight private
workshops where children starting at age four were initiated in the
adventures of this art. But it was in 1887, with the creation of the Escola de Desenho Industrial Rainha D. Maria Pia (Queen Maria Pia Industrial Design School) – later known as Escola Industrial de Rendeiras Josefa de Óbidos (Josefa
de Óbidos Industrial School for Lace makers), under the direction of D.
Maria Augusta Bordalo Pinheiro, that the Peniche lace reached a
perfection and artistic level hard to dispute.
In the light of industrialisation, the
Peniche bobbin lace went backwards, to such extent that even its offer
as an elective course in the high school education was extinguished.
Fortunately, due to the emergence of the Artesãos de Santa Maria (St. Mary Craftsmen), the Escola de Rendas de Peniche – (Peniche Lace School), the formation of the Peniche – Rendibilros
(Association for the protection of the Peniche bobbin lace), among
other initiatives, this form of art is presently protected and
dignified, with more than half a thousand lace makers capable of making
bobbin lace or dedicated to its making. The bobbin lace maker day is
celebrated annually on the third Sunday of July, a holiday that has been
included in the lace maker week program. It is especially dedicated to the lace makers, many of which are indeed those who expose themselves in the
Public Garden in front of thousands of people enchanted by the beauty of their work.