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History
Although stoned pottery is an ancient tradition in Nisa and closely related to water preservation, there are no specific studies that allow us to trace its geographical and historical origin. What we know is that this technique coexisted in the Alto Alentejo region and still coexists to this day, namely in Nisa and Estremoz (located in the Alentejo region, this village 84 kms outside Nisa is also known for a decorative technique of clay encrusting, only with slightly different characteristics) and in the adjacent spanish region of Alta Extremadura, where the stoned decorative technique is still executed in Ceclavín, a place near the Spanish-portuguese border. Here, the technique is known as “enchinado”.


 

And although nowadays there are no active potters, except for the Municipality’s headquarters, Nisa’s pottery tradition spread to other villages in the municipality that were once important references in ceramics: Amieira do Tejo – where tile and water-pot manufacturing predominated – Montalvão – also known for water-pot manufacturing – and Cacheiro – where until the eighties, by the time its last potter, José Lopes, retired, similar pieces to Nisa’s were created, but with color and decoration of rather peculiar kind (See The Peculiar case of Cacheiro).

On the other hand, despite the fact that Nisa’s pottery was initially manufactured to preserve fresh water at home – an instrumental use that largely preceded the access to unpolluted tap water and the use of electricity for domestic purposes – and also to allow its transportation in order to stave off the thirst of voyagers and rural workers, since the sixties, a flourishing demand of more decorative and symbolical than utilitarian purposes gained proeminence. Such trend was much due to Nisa’s strategical location and a stopping point for anyone travelling from Lisbon to the Beira Interior region.

This paved way for a customization of the manufactured pieces, both in morphology and aesthetic motif. So, besides the traditional bottle-type pieces sold by potters in different places in Nisa’s municipality and the neighboring municipalities of Portalegre, Abrantes, Vila Velha de Rodão, Castelo Branco, Covilhã, etc. – especially in railway stations that were part of Beira Baixa train course – production of different decorative artifacts ensued and resulted in a range of plates, platters, miniatures, small animal replicas, etc. while, at the same time, morphologically more traditional pieces were wrapped in distinctive stoned decoration, created with smaller caliber stones and just one thread, or “ida” (as the locals would say). This type of decoration, the most common nowadays, is referred to as Modern Type Decoration.




  Asado pottery with thick encrusted stone decoration in parallel lines – old style.
  Vase with testo (dish) and pucarinho (miniature jar). Modern baroque style decoration with thin stones (2nd calibre).

 

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