The Ancient Alcobaça Pottery

Alcobaça, a town located in the Intermunicipal Community of the West, in a land abundant in large deposits of clay. Despite the lack of evidence to support the claim that faience was done in Alcobaça before 1875, it is believed that at the end of the 16th century there were potters already producing ceramics to supply the Alcobaça Monastery, more precisely for the Cistercian monks who also marked the art of working with clay.

The first references to a decorative faience production unit in Alcobaça, date from 1875. Using white clay from the region, they produced hand-painted crockery and stamping tableware that supplied the local domestic and decorative market.

In 1927 an authentic period of renovation begins, together with the production of common utilitarian pieces, they produce ceramic pieces of apparatus, with a modernist aesthetic concern, and pieces that resemble the old faience. This crockery is easily identified by its yellow, green, violet, blue and red tones on a predominantly blue background.

There is a great diversity of pieces in the Alcobaça faience, from the plate, the fruit bowl, the inkwell, the sauce boat, the jar, the salad bowl, the straw and the platter.

The beginning of the twentieth century marked the appearance of designer pieces, which came to renew the region's ceramic production. In the middle of the 20th century, Alcobaça ceramics began to be exported to some countries in Europe and America, namely to the United States of America and later to Brazil.

In the 1980s Alcobaça was already one of the main ceramic centers in the country, with a major impact on the region's economy. With the red-hot export and the arrival of the first funds from the European Union, to which Portugal had joined, a cycle of inauguration of hundreds of new faience units began, at an unusual and never seen pace, betting on the production of cheap product. The opening of European trade to Asian countries and the entry into the European Community of Eastern European countries, with cheaper labor than the Portuguese, contributes to the bankruptcy of the Alcobaça ceramics industry.

There remained the companies that combined tradition in manufactured production, quality and innovation (whose precursor was Manuel da Bernarda) in design and bet on exports.

The evolution of techniques and styles of production, such as the use of other raw materials other than white clay, the replacement of kilns with pine needles and electric naphtha, which are unable to produce the same shade of blue that predominated in crockery, caused some de-characterization of Alcobaça regional ceramics.