Journalist, communicator, curious walker, in love with people and my little country
The basketry and plant weaving workshop located in the Montgrí Natural Park is about to celebrate its twentieth anniversary
The people at Tramats say they love wicker, rushes, reeds, canes, bamboo, olive tree branches and twigs, and bulrush, and it’s no wonder: these are the natural fibres they have been working with every day since 2004. It was then that Josep Mercader left his job as a professional fruit tree pruner to devote himself to the craft of handmade basketry. The change was by no means contrived. In fact, it was a natural choice, as he is from a family of farmers and vividly remembers his parents searching for baskets and other woven containers to showcase the fruits and vegetables they sold at market. One day Josep made a basket for the family stall, then two more another day, and a half dozen the next. And so it went on. His baskets ended up stealing the show, setting the course for not only his future, but that of his wife, Marga, who joined him on the adventure.
Tramats’ day-to-day business is full of challenges: they restore bulrush and cane chairs and make all sorts of items, including traditional baskets, lamps, wicker and cane panels, braided creations, cane fences and other commissioned pieces. According to Josep, the main customers of traditional basketry are private individuals, and those most interested in its more artistic side are architects, interior designers and companies, especially in the hospitality sector. “Customers come to us with ideas, but we have to work with them to turn these ideas into reality and provide solutions to every request”, he says, “that’s why creation and innovation are so important in our work; we’re always thinking”. Whatever the case, the hands of these artists and artisans craft gorgeous shapes and volumes that awaken a myriad of emotions.
There’s inspiration all around them… Suffice it to say that their workshop is located in Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park, a rich and diverse natural setting. “In a relatively small area we have the sea, we have the marshes and we have dry hills, and that allows us to combine techniques and materials”. This natural treasure trove is generous with them, providing some of the fibres they need. “Some, such as reeds, we find in the wild; others we cultivate purposely. We also use olive branches from nearby fields and there are others we buy elsewhere”. They all arrive at the workshop at the right time of the year to undergo the necessary drying treatment. “We still look at the moon”, he says casually, “so that the canes are at their best, we pick them by the waning moon because that’s when the sap flows the least”.
They occasionally set aside time for outreach activities, too. If groups or organisations arrange an outing in the park, where some of their installations are located, they’ll come along. They also offer courses and workshops where they teach participants how to make traditional fish traps, for example. They have recreated this peculiar piece, used by early fishermen, to perfection thanks to the many hours spent observing it, “because to make the traps well, you have to understand their work; you have to see how they move”, he explains.
About to celebrate its twentieth anniversary, Tramats is a respected and valued company that is reaping the rewards of many years of learning, creation, dedication and effort. “And rigour”, adds Josep Mercader, “because there’s rigour involved, you know? Taking care that all the finishes of a piece are perfect, for example”. It’s by seeking this excellence and turning what was once a simple container into an item worthy of admiration that Tramats has contributed to bringing the craft of handmade basketry into this century and elevating it to its rightful place.