Carpentry, bobbin lace and traditional embroidered sweaters: meet the artisans behind Portugal’s ancestral arts

In November and December, the Portugal Pavilion honors ancestral arts and Portuguese know-how with live demonstrations by some of the country’s finest artisans. This week, Portugal showcased its tradition with carpentry, bobbin lacemaking from Vila do Conde and embroidered sweaters from Póvoa de Varzim. 


Woodworking and joinery production

Pedro Cunha and Rui Pacheco, along with their teacher José Macedo, travelled all the way from Paredes, in northern Portugal, to showcase their woodworking skills at Expo 2020 Dubai. Together, they represent Portugal’s Vocational Training Centre for Wood and Furniture Industries (CFPIMM), whose main goal is to develop human resources for Wood and Furniture Industries.

Outside the Portugal Pavilion, they produced beautiful wooden chairs, presenting upholstery techniques, carving and finishing techniques.



Maria do Ceú Salazar is an artisan from Vila do Conde, who started experimenting with bobbin lace at only three years old, due to the strong family connection with this ancient art. Her grandmother, Julieta de Castro Estrela, was the founder of the Vila do Conde School of Bobbin Lace in 1919, having been the school’s first teacher. Her mother and aunt followed in her footsteps for over 40 years and her sister is currently in charge of the school.

“More than a family tradition, lacemaking is a true passion. I decided to fully dedicate myself to this cultural heritage and, in the past 8 years, I have been following a path that combines the traditional and the contemporary – a personal investment that is constantly challenging me”, she says.

Bobbin lace is produced manually, by crossing cotton threads over the pike, which rests on a cylindrical cushion, with the help of pins and bobbins. The pike is a card, where the design is traced. This craft involves a wide variety of stitches and techniques, and the most used motifs are geometric, marine and floral.

In Portugal, the art of bobbin lace has a special expression in coastal fishing areas, such as Vila do Conde, where it dates back to the 16th century.



For decades, Maria da Luz Ferreira has been fighting to preserve the traditional sweaters from Póvoa de Varzim. After extensive research and practice, she started writing a book to tell the story of this unique Portuguese sweater.

“My heart is full…I fought very hard for this tradition, and to be able to bring this sweater to the public and promote what is ours is an honour. There was a period in recent decades when the Portuguese saw this sweater as a thing of the past, as an inferior product. But today we know it’s not inferior, it’s a noble product”, she says.

The Camisola Poveira (sweater from Póvoa de Varzim) dates back to the first quarter of the 19th century. Made of white wool yarn and then embroidered using black and red wool yarn, it reproduces fishing motifs and a kind of local code, a proto-writing system also compared to Nordic runes, inherited from the vikings and used for many generations.

The sweaters were made to protect fishermen from the cold and were used in pilgrimage and festive occasions. Boats, anchors, fishes, shells, oars crossed and coats of arms were embroidered in cross stitch, expressing sea life in stitches. In the first half of nineteenth century, they were knitted and embroidered by the old retired fishermen from Póvoa de Varzim, a town in northern Portugal. Mothers, wives and brides of fishermen then continued embroidering the sweaters throughout the decades.