Local craftsman João Pedro Candeias is keeping the traditional art of tile making very much alive
João Pedro Candeias was always very good at drawing, but what began as a simple vocation turned into a fully-fledged business dedicated to preserving one of the most ancient and traditional Portuguese crafts, the art of making tiles or azulejos.
Born and raised in the Western Algarve, the 38-year-old craftsman admits he was never an academic; he much preferred to create things with his hands. Aware of that, his parents encouraged him to pursue his passion and helped him buy Odiáxere’s old tile factory, which was up for sale at a public auction.
Having bought the factory right after he finished secondary school, more than 15 years ago, João still had much to learn about the craft and turned to more experienced tile makers for help: “I began working with people who already had experience in the field, namely a couple from Aveiro, who worked with me for two years,” he says.
Over the years, he established a name for himself with his company Lacoarte, which, at one point, had clients from all over the Algarve and nine employees. However, since much of its work came from the construction business, recession hit the company hard, forcing João to scale down. Now, he works at a workshop under his own name, also located in Odiáxere, close to the village’s main road. “In a way it turned out for the best, because I now have more free time and better quality of life,” he comments.
Having extra time also allowed the tile maker to explore his work from a more artistic perspective. “I have numerous tile panels in stock, but I can conceive a personalised design for the client or simply transfer a specific drawing to the tiles,” he explains.
Regardless of the design, João hand paints each individual square after buying the glazed tiles in bulk, making his panels true works of art. Precision is key, as he needs to ensure that the colours and patterns in each piece are exactly the same. “What a lot of people don’t know is that the paint has a completely different colour before the tile goes into the oven at 1020ºC,” he explains. “Before going into the oven, blue tiles are in fact purple. Their true colours only show when they dry, which can take between two to three days, depending on the weather.”
With clients from all across the Algarve – including well-known names such as the luxury Pine Cliffs resort in Albufeira –, João’s largest piece so far was a 70-metre panel for a private home in Praia da Luz, which took him about two months to complete.
His regular work, however, ranges from creating tiles to cover the walls of kitchens, bathrooms and hallways (mostly in Portuguese homes) to building custom-designed panels for the homes of expats, mainly in the Western Algarve, Albufeira and Vilamoura.
Most of the patterns depict traditional images of the Algarve, from beautiful blossoming almond trees to people working in the countryside. He also specialises in renovations, bringing new shine to old tile panels. Still, his heart lies undoubtedly in creativity. “No work is ever the same, and that is why it is so pleasurable. That, and being the assistant coach of the local football team. I enjoy my extra free time now.”
João Pedro Candeias’ workshop is open Monday to Friday from 8.30 am-12.30pm and 2pm-6pm.
965 610 157