The Esparto Advantage

Esparto is a resilient grass with tough narrow leaves that gave its name to the espadrille (via the Catalan espardenya or the southern Spanish esparteña). This reed grows in Spain, North Africa, and many other dry and semi-dry areas of the world. As a material, the esparto grass possesses two indisputable advantages: it is very resilient and highly breathable. Spanish peasants used esparto to make not only shoes but also a whole bunch of durable and attractive objects for the household, until pretty recently when plastic became a common material.

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Esparto grass growing in Spain. Photo courtesy of Víctor Castelo Gutiérrez, Flickr.

 

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An esparto grass rug from Jaén, Úbeda. Photo courtesy of Nacho, Flickr.
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An esparto grass belt. Photo courtesy of Susanastur, Flickr.

The art and know-how of esparto craftsmanship would be in danger of disappearing if it wasn’t for people like Alejandro Sevilla, the founder of Espartéame. The company makes and distributes design objects made of esparto to professional decorators, various types of businesses, and regular people who have a connection with the material and want to have it in their home. An Advertising and Public Relations major, Alejandro is an Internet-savvy entrepreneur. He started his company less than a year ago and is quickly spreading his wings selling at fairs, through the Espartéame website, by e-mail order, and through Etsy.

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Alejandro Sevilla surrounded by Espartéame designs in the village of Mula, Murcia. Photo: Shopper Magazine.

Espartéame‘s products fall under various categories: animal heads, rugs, baskets, mirror frames, other things for the home. Some of them can be purchased through the Espartéame website, others can be ordered by contacting Alejandro via e-mail. Here are some of the adorable animal heads that Alejandro sells:

 

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Color and texture of the objects vary according to the way the raw esparto is treated beforehand. When young and untreated, the reed is green-beige in color, if cured and left to dry in the sun it acquires a rich honey-wheat hue. If the grass is thrashed before being used, it becomes softer and more pliable, making for a smoother texture. Since all these processes are natural, no two objects are identical. The variation of color within the same object, also natural, greatly enhances the visual effect.

This is the esparto elephant I bought from Espartéame as a gift to my sister on her birthday. It cost 40 Euros, plus a small shipping fee, and it arrived within a short period of time, safe and sound in a simple padded envelope.

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Until you actually place an esparto object on your wall or elsewhere in your home where it can be seen at a bit of a distance, you can’t fully appreciate how well it looks.

I also really like this esparto cactus by Espartéame. It works great as a window display of a store, for example.

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A beautiful esparto rug by Espartéame from Murcia:

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Ambassadors like Espartéame demonstrate esparto‘s decorative potential. While Murcia has a long-standing esparto working tradition, artisans from other areas of Spain also produce stunning esparto pieces.

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This filigree-quality tapestry with Castilian heraldry was made by Ubedíes Artesanía, a family-run business located in the ancient town of Úbeda, in Jaén, Andalusia.

Transformed by the skill of the artist, esparto‘s crude, earthy quality adds a great touch to almost any place, especially to minimalistic, light-filled modern spaces. The production process is environmentally friendly, which also adds to esparto‘s appeal. It seems natural that instead of disappearing from use, this tough old reed is making a comeback as design material for the 21st century.

Sources used:

Shopper magazine interview with Alejandro Sevilla of Espartéame.

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About Me

Ann Mailsi is a writer and social media buff based in the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario, Canada. Her interests include fashion, technology, and nature adventures.

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