Introducing Hand Color


It was a warm August evening in Silves during it’s Annual Medieval Fair. The cobblestone streets and alleys where packed with visitors dressed in different colors that attended the variety of medievally themed stalls around the old part of the city.

Suddenly from behind a stall someone calls my name “Hey Vasco!” I recognized the smiling man but something was amiss. The last time I had seen him, we where both Archaeology students in a roman dig in nearby Lagos and he had  long black hair in a pony tail that was now gone. That’s why I couldn’t immediately recognize him.

Back then, 8 years before, things where different and we both wanted to make Archaeology a living…

“Paulo! You cut your hair dude!” I said smiling. – How are you my friend? Are you working here?”
“I am! This is what me and Joana do now – Joana was Paulo’s wife and both of them worked on their products. While we talked Paulo kept working on a necklace he was preparing to have it ready for sale. I asked then the obvious question.”And Archaeology?”
“Stopped working on it, Now I do this fulltime, we go around the country doing markets and festivals, and that’s more than enough!” and he pointed at his stall.



Only then I took a deeper look at their stall and noticed imediately it reminded me of Roman Mosaics, tile by tile making small pieces of art in the shape of necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets.

But not only that but also the characteristic Portuguese cobblestones that are a part of every single sidewalk in Portugal.


And then there was the artistic “deviation” from this simple pattern, the tiny tiles in black and white where simply multiplying in a myriad of colors and geometric forms creating a spectacle of colors…


And ranges, from necklaces to bracelets to rings…


We talked for a good while about how they did their craft, how the market work goes and everything in between, like good friends talking after years of not seeing each other and catching up on all those years apart while the night slowly fell on the medieval city…


We ended up saying our goodbyes and we both went our different paths.

Years later when, Cork Crafts was starting there was one major point of it’s inception. To have a way of giving a gateway for Portuguese artisans to sell their crafts but it had to be intimately related to cork.

Immediately I got in touch with Paulo and Joana again. I really wanted to get their work to be a part of Cork Crafts. In my mind the color of cork would make a great contrast with all the colorful sets from Hand Color.

Ended up meeting them in their shop in Cabanas and we agreed it would be a great opportunity to get their designs outside of Portugal and at the same time to have  it as an exclusive cork collection of their necklaces. Lucky for us, Paulo remembered they had some left over cork strings from an experiment few years back and therefore, the first collection of cork necklaces was born:

From there on, Hand Color has been a constant part of our stall at each market, from Cork City, to Bantry, passing through Killarney, the necklaces and bracelets have been a complete success.

For me personally, it’s great to represent Paulo and Joana’s work, crafts from a small town on the south of Portugal to the whole south of Ireland and, with the cork twist!

With all of this in mind, I’m very happy to say that we will  continue to work with Hand Color. And if you ever end up in Cabanas and Mertola, look for Hand Colors shop! And if you meet Joana and Paulo say hi to them from us. 🙂


Fires in the Algarve

Firefighters and soldiers battle Algarve fires as temperatures hit 45 degrees


A bush fire a scene more and more common in Portugal.

You probably saw this on the news and we had to write about it. The fire has now spread across three councils and even the Reproductive center for the endangered Iberian Lynx was evacuated,

All lynxes are safe in Spain in another center, thankfully.
We just had to write about this because this is again, and again the same problem. The consecutive destruction of native trees in favor of the very profitable eucalyptus…
Portugal continues to be the third country in the world with more Eucalyptus, after Australia and India… now compare in size Portugal to Australia or India!
The problem with the Eucalyptus is that it’s a tree which it’s own nature is to burn, the so called “bush fires” are natural parts of the ecosystem this tree is a part of.
Trees like the cork oak tree are not so prone to burn, the cork bark itself is a fire retardant and not something readily flammable like the eucalyptus bark.
In Portugal though, there are huge lobbies at play here as this “invasive” tree is used to produce paper and guess what’s one of Portugal biggest exports? Paper…
And take a guess at where the fire started and what kind of tree continues to burn effusively? The Eucalyptus.
We are not going to name any companies, but the biggest paper companies in the world are based in Portugal.
And this is achieved by the constant destruction of ecosystems nationwide to plant the very flammable eucalyptus.
It is sad that when one travels through Portugal at some point the landscape is fulled Eucalyptus as far as the eye can see.
At Cork Crafts we believe in a fully sustainable future and we understand that this is only possible when we stop destroying ecosystems in favor of making a quick buck.
Your company may last a few years but what’s at stake?
Where will your paper company be in 100 years? 200 years? Specially now in the advent of the digital world and much of the world going paperless more and more?
But all is not lost.

There is a growing consciousness in Portugal, there are good people doing good deeds, understanding how important the native ecosystem is and planting cork oaks, fig trees, almond trees and so many native saplings.

So we will keep our hopes up that one day we can reclaim our ecosystem and we will stop having so many fires.

– Vasco Carto



A typical view of a Montado where the cork oak grows and it’s bark harvested.

A change of use (for the blog at least)

We really did want to keep on with updates on the blog but it has been increasingly difficult with so many events we’re taking a part of. We are going weekly to Macroom, Ballincollig, Cork and many other places.

With this in mind and since you can find our daily updates in instagram and facebook (, we are going to use this space to divulge information about the uses of cork. The cork industry and it’s sustainability and general news regarding Cork Crafts and everyone that makes this project possible.

Stay tuned! 🙂


The capital of cork country

We ended up spending a week in Lisbon and Lisbon is truly the capital of cork country.

From traditional coffee shops more than 100 years old completely covered in cork (sadly to wandering around Feira da Ladra and finding so many cork antiques.

Some of them where these spoons that we got:


You can now see them at our markets. They are hand carved from cork pieces and the smallest one is actually sanded too.

Impressive skills that still exist in the heart of cork country.

In Cork Country…

We spent the last few days at a wedding in a town called Sobral de Monte Agraço. The name itself reffers to a wood of cork oak trees and the city’s crest features a cork oak tree


The interesting thing about this place though is that it might not have ever featured cork oaks at all but actually the lands where the city lies was offered to a prominent family called the Sobral Family which was offered the hill where the city lies in the 12th century.

Nonetheless the crest and name are definetly a refference to a cork oak woods. 🙂

Today Sobral is surrounded by vineyards and is known as the heart of the wine from the Portuguese Estremadura or the Greater Lisbon Area..