‘Made in the Balearics’ shopping
heir simplicity and diversity create style and comfort, and reflect the image and personality of the island.” That is how Mibo Cosits describes the classic abarca (or menorquina) sandals that symbolise craftsmanship from the Balearic Islands. Located in Es Migjorn Gran, a municipality in Minorca, this company has a long tradition in shoemaking and is almost exclusively dedicated to manufacturing abarcas, the traditional Minorcan sandal. Another is RIA Menorca, in the municipality of Ferreries, which has been in business for more than 60 years and launches 300 different models each season. Or Avarca Pons, located in Ciutadella. This third generation of shoemakers is famed for “combining artisan techniques with more innovative processes”.
This footwear, first worn by humble peasants and later by princesses and celebrities, is one of the highest selling products on the islands. But it is certainly not the only thing they produce. Here you will also find glass, ceramics, embroidery, leather and silver. Traditional activities and craftsmanship form part of the cultural heritage of the Balearics, which has led the Balearic Tourist board to design four routes that invite visitors to discover the trades linked to the islands’ history.
There are numerous craft fairs on the islands. On Ibiza, the fortified Dalt Vila area, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, hosts different craft fairs in the summer. In La Mola, Formentera, besides stores, there are workshops where you can watch artisans at work.
If Minorca is all about sandals, then Majorca offers the chance to explore pottery workshops, whose potters are direct inheritors of popular Mediterranean culture and its wealth of ceramics, ornate tiles and terracotta. One place where you can observe this technique is Marratxí, the land of clay, where, besides craft fairs, there is a clay museum, set in a windmill. Stonework is another well-developed trade in Majorca, particularly in Sierra de Tramuntana, where you can see dry-stone (pedra en sec) constructions, based on a technique that uses stone, and practically no cement, as a basic building component.
Glasswork is another notable tradition of this island, one the family-run Lafiore are helping keep alive. “We want people to appreciate our pieces for their decorative contribution. The secret is expertise in the craft of glass blowing as an artistic activity, with raw materials of the finest quality and innovative, modern designs in all our creations,” explains the general manager, Miguel Tortella. On the way to Algaida, located along the Manacor road, you can also visit the Gordiola Glass Museum, with artistic pieces from early ovens. From the outside, the building looks like a castle.
A culinary souvenir
Mahón cheese, in Minorca, and ensaimadas, in Majorca, are two traditional products from the islands. You can sample the first, which has a Protected Denomination of Origin, at Mercat des Calustre. Horno Santo Cristo, open since 1910 in Palma, is a legendary bakery where you can buy the renowned Majorcan treat.
The third route will take you to Ibiza, where clay is also a basic element of the local arts and crafts. Artisan ceramics, decorated with engobes and sgraffito, include plates, jugs, lamps, masks and jewellery, are among its specialities.
Leather is also a big feature of this island, particularly since the hippies took it up as a way of making a living, way back in the sixties. That was when the flea markets started. The most famous, having been operational for 30 years, is the one at Las Dalias, open on Saturdays, all year round. Find ‘adlib’ fashion (in the local ibicenco style), jewellery, artisan shoes and antiques, and enjoy in a relaxed setting, where you can also enjoy natural fruit juices, fusion cuisine or a cup of tea in a jaima bereber.
Punta Arabí Hippy Market, home to more than 500 artisans, is also ideal if you are looking for clothes, shoes, handbags or belts. Or even artisanal beer, of course, like the ones Óscar sells there: “No additives, unfiltered and in five flavours”. Flamenco, seventies rock, electronic music and Afro-reggae, among many other fusions, comprise the soundtrack of the largest and oldest flea market in Ibiza.
On Formentera, visitors often come away with woollen jerseys, hand knitted by local farmers, and with jewellery. This is sometimes made from iron or recycled driftwood, bleached by the sea, a symbol of the island’s spirit. You can admire the utensils and tools used for this work at the Ethnographic Museum, located in the centre of Sant Francesc Xavier.
Balearic artisans are multi-skilled and known all over the world. Their work is done by hand, and based on years of experience, passed down from generation to generation. This is a fine journey, through trades connected to the land, on carefully planned paths, stopping to explore each detail, designed to help you understand these islands through their products. You won’t be able to leave without at least one souvenir in your suitcase.