Wander the aisles of souvenir shops populating the promenades of Tenerife’s popular resorts and you might conclude that the island’s craft skills stretch no further than banana plant fridge magnets, I heart Tenerife tea towels and Mount Teide night light holders. You’d be wrong. Tenerife has a rich cultural inheritance of handicrafts practised and honed through generations which today produces world class goods in exquisite designs. But you won’t find them at the back of the beach in Los Cristianos.
Ordinarily, you would need to travel the length and breadth of the island, and indeed the archipelago to find the best of these craftsmen and women and to buy their products. But for three days at the end of August, many of them will come together in one, beautiful place to demonstrate their skills and to exhibit and sell their wares.
Now in its 28th year, the Pinolere Craft Fair takes place between the 30th August and the 1st September 2013 in the hills above La Orotava.
In this tiny barrio, 800 meters above sea level and hemmed in by barrancos to east and west, Pinolere is a community of some 700 inhabitants living amongst the emerald pines of Tenerife’s Corona Forestal. For much of the year, their lives are clouded, not by tragedy but by the sea of clouds that rests 300 metres above them.
For the sun seekers who annually flock to the beaches of the coast, clouds are considered a blight on their holiday but for those whose livelihood depends on the land, they’re a blessing. In Pinolere the clouds mean high humidity in summer and an abundance of winter rain ensuring that, along with the fertile volcanic earth, everything here grows as if it were intended for the set of Lost World.
For the majority of Pinolere’s inhabitants, the land provides their livelihood and allows them to be almost entirely self-sufficient. For generations, they have been basket weavers, iron workers, charcoal producers, carpenters, farmers and muleteers. It’s only relatively recently that the community have ceased to construct their homes in the traditional manner of many of the country dwellings of Tenerife; walls of dry stone roofed with chestnut wood entwined with branches and then thatched with straw. But many of those buildings have survived and now provide the stage for year-round exhibitions, workshops, stalls, music and demonstrations.
28 years ago Pinolere came up with the idea of showcasing the wide range of crafts and skills that they held. Calling it ‘The Day of the Traditional Canaries’, they brought together all the craftspeople from the local area and invited them to exhibit the best of their products. Over the course of the years that event has grown from a local fair to an International stage for crafts featuring artisans, not just from across the Canary Islands and Spain but also from the Americas and Europe.
Set out on stepped terraces of red earth with a backdrop of swathes of pine forest to three sides and dizzying views down to the coast and Puerto de la Cruz, you’ll find design ranging from traditional to avant garde and goods ranging from edible to ornate. This year the theme is cane and there will be tributes to the artisans of Teror on Gran Canaria who, for generations, have been masters of the craft. But you won’t just find cane on show, amongst the 200 artisans exhibiting you’ll find glassware, metal ware, wood carvings, pottery, ceramics, leather, lace, wicker and stone. Take home superb design and unique, handmade products in furniture, carpets, clothes, shoes, handbags, art, toys and ornaments.
As well as arts and crafts, Pinolere specialises in artisan food and you can taste your way around honeys, jams, mojos, cheeses, breads, cakes, wines and spirits. Appetites whetted, there’s plenty of opportunity to take time out over savoury pinchos sizzling on the barbecue and local vino del país from the simple quachinche food stall on the upper terrace.
With 30,000 visitors expected, Pinolere is a brilliant day out in a beautiful setting where you can find crafts honed from materials that have sustained communities for centuries. It’s also a showcase for the skills and dedication to excellence that is so lacking in the island’s souvenir tat shops.
Pinolere 2013 opens midday to 9pm on Friday 30th August, 10am to 9pm Saturday 31st August and 10am to 9pm on Sunday 1st September 2013; entrance is a paltry €2.50 and free buses run hourly between 10am and 8pm from La Orotava bus station.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+