The Handicrafts Sector
The combination of history, different cultures and beautiful landscapes means that Apulia is home to many materials that in the skilled hands of its craftsmen can be transformed into items used in the home as well as genuine works of art. This centuries-old tradition encapsulates the entire history of the region and continues, in its lanes, streets and historic town centres, to keep it alive today. Handicrafts are a significant economic resource that has become even more important over time, safeguarding ancient skills as it continues to innovate and become increasingly internationalised.
Ceramics, paper mache, embroidery, musical instruments, wrought iron, glass and mosaics are just some of the artisanal skills represented in Apulia. It is a vital sector that provides significant support to the region’s culture, tourism, creativity and job market.
Ceramics is just one of the region’s traditional artistic productions and is centred around Grottaglie (Taranto). As the sector developed across the region, so too did different forms and methods and the great variety of shapes found in Apulian ceramics is encapsulated in its famous terracotta whistles that have come to symbolise Apulian craftsmanship.
Even the poorest of materials can be turned into art and this is certainly true of paper mache, one of the region’s most creative and representative art forms. It is shaped and moulded to bring the traditional “pupi” – the little statues placed in cribs – to life and also used to create the characters from the Commedia D’arte (e.g. Harlequin, Pierrot) that feature in Putignano’s famous carnival.
Weaving and embroidery also feature strongly in the region’s handicraft sector, representing the history of the region’s women who are still creating exquisite items that are quite unique. The region’s raw materials have always been used by its craftsman, especially those created by nature, like wood, cane and common reeds that in the hands of Apulia’s artisans are turned into items useful in daily life, musical instruments and decorative items.
Another flourishing artisanal sector has developed over time around Apulia’s stone quarries, where a combination of brute force and creativity has resulted in pieces used to adorn palaces and monuments, design objects and works of art.
Wrought iron, a symbol of Apulia’s Baroque period and yet another of the traditional handicrafts practiced by skilled Apulian hands, can be seen in balcony and stair rails, street lights and candelabra and features in many other forms used to embellish palaces and even more humble abodes.
Artistic glasswork and mosaics are another aspect of Apulia’s traditional creativity. Design objects and decorative items are still produced in local workshops, born of the fusion between glass, ingenuity and knowledge passed from one generation to the next. No wonder the regional government sees handicrafts as an important cultural and economic element for the region and why there are so many initiatives to support the growth of this particular productive sector that can also represent Apulian culture throughout the world.