Ceramics : Casa do Artista Popular

Casa do Artista Popular
Brasileiro artesans produces a prodigious amount of ceramic sculptures, mainly in terracotta.
Casa do Artista Popular
I didn’t take as many photos as I should have—so this post is no indication—but one sees these large, traditional or fantastic, figurines in every souvenir shop, every lobby, every restaurant.

Casa do Artista Popular

There are whole towns, in the interior, that do nothing else but craft tiny scenes from everyday life, boys chasing chickens, women selling vegetables…though I didn’t see them here.
Ceramics
The lights are very “gallery-esque” at the Casa Do Artista Popular (tiny, amber spotlights that one can hardly see by) so I’m afraid many of these photos will be blurry or dark, but they give an idea…

With their tremendous talent for shaping and working clay, one wonders why there seems to be so little experimentation. But I guess that’s what makes it folk art: the artisans have the techniques, but no imagination or desire to break away; they are happy to produce the same time-honoured designs of their forebears.
Ceramics
It probably took a couple of hundred years for them to venture from making religious figures to making secular figures…it’ll probably take another few centuries before the village potters attempt anything so outlandish as a flower vase in the shape of a house…

The doll room : Casa do Artista Popular

Casa do Artista PopularReally good stuff at the Casa do Artista Popular in downtown João Pessoa. Rooms devoted to various folk arts and crafts. I loved the doll room. Tiny fabric foliões (revelers) just over an inch high, above.

Papier maché puppets…Casa do Artista Popular

Mechanical figurines with whirligigs that produce movements…

Casa do Artista Popular
Large mosaics made entirely of prettily-dressed dolls…
Casa do Artista Popular
and gypsy rag dolls complete with wooden clogs and travel suitcases…
Casa do Artista PopularThe Casa do Artista Popular is a small museum of folk art and crafts, set in a beautifully restored old building overlooking the Parque da Independência, 56 – Centro, João Pessoa – PB

A city’s historical center

As casas do colonial

I sure hope you like the colonial Portuguese style of colorful, baroque houses as much as I do…because here are some more, and I suspect there will be months and months more of these confections.

As casas do colonial

We took the train into João Pessoa the other day, and walked around the city’s Centro Historico. This is where the city was founded in 1585…not at all near the beaches on the coast, overlooking the Atlantic ocean, but a good way inland, along the sleepy banks of the Rio Paraiba, where ships could dock and load up on sugar and extremely valuable brasil wood coming from the interior (hence the proximity of the railway to the Historical Center).

As casas do colonial

Unlike Olinda, with its very narrow streets and its air of a museum and residential area, the “wedding cake” buildings of João Pessoa are actively used as business premises.

As casas do colonial

At seeming variance with the vivid colour combinations, the frilly plaster mouldings, and the wrought iron balconies, the businesses housed in this area are mostly hardware and construction supplies, industrial spare parts, automobile parts and garages.

As casas do colonial

And while there are pockets in the area where the houses have been restored and done up to please the tourists and to live up to the bright images in the brochures, most of the buildings are succumbing to a slow decay. On some streets, entire house blocks have not been touched since the houses were built, 500 years ago. These houses are stripped to bare brickwork. The roofs are gone. The doors have been boarded up (sometimes the entire house has been filled in, with rubble and concrete, to discourage squatters). Trees grow inside the houses, vines creep up the once-ornate baroque facades.

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And much as I love the candy-coloured houses restored by money from benevolent societies in Switzerland and the UNESCO, I am more affected by the untouched buildings that stand as they have since they were built.

As casas do colonial

As casas do colonial

I think of what glorious, grand homes for the wealthy Portuguese traders they must have once been, and what an amazing little city João Pessoa must have been at the height of its commercial and political eminence, when it was the “CBD” of the state, and not just a patchily preserved wreck, propped up by historical societies.

As casas do colonial