Monday, February 17, 2014

Spanish Grass - Esparto Grass

Esparto - Grass Roots Of History

this lens' photo
The first time I came across Spanish grass, was in the Valencian countryside, refurbishing an old farm building. The terracotta floor was down and the grouting done, the Spanish chap threw me a bunch of light brown strands and suggested this will clean it up best - he wasn't wrong.

Spanish grass is as durable and formidable as the skilled craftsmen that work it, and turn it into superb and highly desirable products that not only have a purpose are aesthetically pleasing to have in the home.

Spanish grass or Esparto is one of the products that made the world go round for thousands of years and has almost disappeared today but the old skills are still remembered In Spain's only Esparto grass museum in Murcia, alongside skilled craftsmen keeping this artisan work alive.

Esparto Craftwork

Esparto, is a type of grass that grows wild on the hillsides all along the Spanish coast, and its tough, flexible fibers, were used from ancient times to make shoes, belts, baskets, fans, paper, mats and thousands of other things.

Historically, one of the most important things made from Esparto were the ropes used by sailing ships.

Decades ago, hundreds of people where employed in the esparto industry and the first stage is to gatherer the grass on the steep Spanish hillsides - no easy task, especially in the baking summer months.

A palillo, a metal spiked hand loop, pulls the fibres from the ground and wraps them together.

Next, it was stacked in heaps to dry out in the sun and then soaked in large ponds for up to 40 days, to allow for a chemical change in the fibre, after this, it was pulled out and stacked to dry again.

Now it was ready to be pulverised, using a huge wooden mallet over a tree stump or two timber beams, belt driven in a factory.

The next stage is to comb the fibres through with metal rakes, a process that proved hazardous to the health of the workers, causing espartosis from airborne fibres.

The fibres were then spun into threads and woven together into bands, spun into 15m length cables ropes for shipping.

Esparto today, has been replaced by modern materials, like plastics to make most of the heavy industry products, but In Murcia and other parts of Spain craftsmen still keep this process alive by making house hold products.

All photographs in this lens are being used with kind permission from Señor Jesús María Quintero Gómez -
Image Credit

Craftsmen working on his stall


Esparto display

No comments:

Post a Comment