There are many wondrous things hidden away in the back streets of Lisboa, but one of our favourites is Cerâmica S. Vicente owned and run by Christina Pina. Shop sign in tiles of courseWe first discovered her shop on Rua S. Vicente last year, but only had limited time (& space in our luggage). So this year on our return to Lisboa her wonderful studio and shop was high on our programme of things to do.

Cerâmica S. Vicente specialises in art restoration and the traditional method of painting tiles, and their studio is in the middle of the shop. There are of course plenty of places where you can buy tiles in Lisboa and also Porto, and there is also the fabulous Museu Nacional do Azulejo. Unfortunately though these days there are not many places where you can still buy tiles that have been created using traditional techniques, and even fewer I suspect where you can actually see them at work. So Cerâmica S. Vicente is something rather special.

On our arrival one of Christina’s colleagues was in the middle of painting a tile, and when we left she was using the tracing paper to ‘pounce’ a charcoal image onto the next tile so that she could then begin painting again. As much as I was enjoying watching the traditional methods, I was relieved to see she was using a soft brush rather than rabbits tail to rub away the excess charcoal. At the back of the studio is the design board, and it is here that the tracing patterns are created and much of the wonderful earthenware can be found.

As well as the earthenware you can purchase individual azulejos at Cerâmica S. Vicente, and even commission your own panel(s). On our visit they had recently finished a set of stunning panels for a very large kitchen. The photograph below includes an unused section from their design. It reminds me of the wonderful panel in the cafe at the Azulejo Museum. If you want to see the actual one they have created they have posted a few photographs on their facebook page.  Must admit I was very tempted by the panel in my picture. Only the lack of luggage space combined with uncertainty as to where I would put it stopped me!

Typical blue as well as colour

I could have quite happily taken back the fish panel

The fish may not have made it home with us, however we did find a few individual azulejos to add to the one we bought last year.The two in the middle which typically in the first half of the 18th century were used in functional areas such as kitchen and corridors are called ‘figura avulsa’. So called because each one has a distinct figure in the centre. You may have noticed they also have blue flower shapes in each corner, these are known as ‘little star’ since they form a type of star when four azulejos are put together.

If you are lucky enough to be in Lisboa soon and also want to take back a rather special memento of your visit to Portugal or perhaps find an unusual gift then make sure you pop by and visit Cerâmica S. Vicente.

The quality of their work really is superb, and as every piece is hand painted you’ll also be acquiring something quite unique. If you are fortunate enough to be living here in Portugal and have a few pennies to spare, then why not go one step further and commission a panel. Not only will it be beautiful but you will be supporting some extremely talented as well as lovely artisans. Have fun, and don’t forget to invite me round once it is all done!