Please tell us about Toino Abel.
Toino Abel started in 2010 as a way to promote Portuguese basket making. Ancient craft techniques have survived because there has always been someone who found interest in promoting them through the generations. I did not see anyone taking on these traditions, so I decided to continue myself. In 2013 I moved to my grandfather’s village in the center of Portugal in order to work closely with the remaining artisans. Today we have new people working on it and we are a team of about 20 people.
What makes your bags unique?
Toino Abel bags are done on a handloom with vegetable fibers. The entire process is handmade and we work with materials from the natural world.
Our baskets are made with the same technique as in the beginning of the last century. Great changes have taken place since then but they have not altered our manufacturing process (except the use of electric light, which allows us to work longer in winter). Every step of our fabrication is entirely done by hand. Cidália Ricardo and Emília Pimentaare are responsible for working the reed. They cut the reed sticks into bunches of equal size. They whiten the reed by burning it in a sulfur process. Once these steps are performed, they weave the reed on a handloom in a variety of patterns just as a tapestry is made. When the work on the loom is ready, the finished parts are stitched together in the form of a bag. Finally, the handles, made of willow branches, are bound and fastened onto the baskets.
Who is your ideal clientele?
Toino Abel sells directly from our online shop, and we sell wholesale to a few shops around the world. Our margins selling to shops are low, but I would still love to have our work in a beautiful shop.
How do you see the handmade craft sector in Portugal today?
Crafters based in Portugal have to decide whether to produce low-quality objects to sell in souvenir shops or to bring quality and function to their work. The Portuguese market is an important market for Toino Abel but we could only exist selling worldwide. Strangely enough, recognition from the outside gives self-confidence to this national market.
What are your production capabilities?
We are able to produce around 200 pieces a month. Toino Abel is happy to fulfill their clients’ custom needs.
For more info: www.toinoabel.com