Walking the streets in Porto, Portugal on a beautiful June morning it seems as though every surface has served, at some point in history, as a canvas for painters, ceramic artists and story tellers. Vibrance and colour are simply everywhere. This is in large part due to the ages old practice of using hand painted, ceramic tiles as exterior covering for their buildings.
The Portuguese initially adopted ceramic tiles for the exterior of their buildings because they offer inexpensive and effective insulation. The colour is really the icing on top of functionality. Many of the tiles are hand painted in unique floral or geometric patterns, and are almost always in bright hues.
Despite an astronomical economic crisis that has left many buildings abandoned and dilapidated, with broken windows and collapsed ceilings, these colourful tiles reflect the optimistic nature of the Portuguese people. Part of my trip was spent participating in a Habitat for Humanity build in Braga, located about 40 minutes drive north of Porto.
Braga is a beautiful village, with remarkable residents, who, like the rest of the country, are working hard to restore their livelihood. My days there were spent on the worksite and the evenings visiting traditional restaurants and listening to live music while sipping port at one of the many sidewalk cafes.
This tiled mural, that reflects the towns folklore and history, hangs on the exterior of church in Barcelo.
Modern sceptre in the harbour in Viana do Castelo. Portugal
Sometimes it’s just the little things, like these window boxes, overflowing with flowers and stung with paper decorations celebrating a recent religious procession.
And even where there are no tiles, there is art. I spotted this striking stencilled art on a side street in Viana do Castelo. I’m looking forward to dedicating some serious studio time to creating some Portuguese inspired prints in the meanwhile, if you’d like to bring a little bright into your everyday, check out this colourful collection.