Portugal Manual: the community who redesigns the Portuguese tradition

Portugal Manual: the community who redesigns the Portuguese tradition
It is with pride that I was invited by Filipa Belo to join the Portugal Manual community a year ago. Since then, I have never ceased to admire all the energy and devotion that Filipa puts into this project that she nurtures with her heart and soul.
Portugal Manual is today not only an important community of craftsmen, artists and designers who elevate Portugal but also a return to tradition through transmission, with a new vision. But who better than Filipa Belo, the founder, can tell us about it?

Filipa Belo Portugal Manual

Filipa, can you tell me how this all started?

I am an enthusiast of entrepreneurship, sustainable consumption, sharing and circular economy. With motherhood, I started to have huge concerns about the world I wanted to leave for my children and that preoccupation became a life motto. The search for organic, sustainable products, far from mass production, took me to start researching and discovering a movement that was being implemented in Portugal with great force already in 2012. 

In August 2017, my husband and I came to Brazil for professional reasons and this change gave me time to structure and to search what I wanted to do. At that time I had already known that it would be with the New Portuguese artisans. Knowing the stories and challenges that new artisans face daily, made me have a huge desire to promote these projects that are from people to people. With my moving to Brazil, I brought everyone in my heart and I started to think of a way to promote these works that, due to logistical and/or financial reasons, cannot go that far. I studied and researched a lot about this movement between design and craftsmanship. From this passion and search, Portugal Manual was born.

Portugal Manual Bzugo

From the beginning, what are the main purposes of Portugal Manual? 

My first objective, as founder and curator of Portugal Manual, is to tell the stories of these new artisans who dare to return to the handmade works. I have observed over the past few years that when you buy a piece of craft, you buy the story that goes with it. The customer is increasingly looking for an economy of affection, a concept developed by the Brazilian creative Jackson Araújo, where much more than a piece, the buyer is looking for something that is in tune with their individuality. I think that this dimension of affection, of history, of wanting to connect to something, leads us to crafts.

Besides that, one of the problems that I have identified was the loneliness of these entrepreneurs. They are the ones in charge with the production, the marketing department, the communication strategies, the bureaucracy of  the accounting issues and, at the end of the day, they need to be creative, productive and above all they need to promote themselves, create value to their work and sell it.

So, I decided to build a community of people who share all of these challenges to support each other, and most of the time that is so simple as to talk with someone who has the same questions and feelings everyday.   

Based on community principals, Portugal Manual also negotiated with several partners focused on the better solutions for all the projects who are part of our network.

We also promote events to show their works to new clients and markets. To make connections. 

And also to promote Creative Tourism in Portugal in partnership with Visit Portugal. Portugal Manual - Curated Cultural Experiences is an immersive project that promotes a return to the manual through a curatorship of authorial and artistic experiences in mainland Portugal and islands. Because, at the end of day we want to show this new production and this new Portuguese image to everyone who wants to visit us.

Portugal Manual

What developments or adaptations has Portugal Manual undergone since its launch? What are the reasons?

I launched the project at the end of 2018. 2019 was a very important year for us and we have several events in Brazil which help us to understand how we can achieve our goals and what our challenges will be. We were really ambitious working on a series of actions that would take place in several countries. Presence in international fairs, exhibitions and events. But, with covid, the world stopped and so do we. But we just stop physically. If our digital presence was already one of our strengths, at the covid time we made ourselves more present at the social media, creating a huge engagement with our partners and also with our public.

Since then a lot has happened. We launched the first Portugal Manual collection, we opened stores in Portugal and recently we started our podcast. Just to give some examples. 
The store's projects were something that we never had planned but we are really happy with them. They are really important to continue telling our stories. The first one was opened at the end of 2020 at CCB and we have there all the Portugal Manual world. From the smallest thing to the masterpieces.
One year ago, in collaboration with Vida Portuguese we launched Depozito, a place where the traditional crafts and the contemporary live together to show the importance of meeting tradition with innovation. 

Depozito A Vida Portuguesa Luz Editions
How many brands or artisans do you currently have in this collective? How do you select them?
Our network grows everyday. Daily we receive new applications and sometimes it is really hard to select them.  
Today we have around 70 projects and brands with us. We look for special projects. Made by hand, not exclusive, but without mass production. The choices of material are very important for us as the respect for the planet, animals and for everyone who works in the production chain. We are really committed to SGD goals. 
We look for people who want to renew the Portuguese crafts traditions and who have a singular language that meets what we want to promote as an image of New Portuguese Crafts. 

What brand or craftsman do you still not have in this network and why? Which one would you like to have?
There's a lot of Portuguese brands, artists and projects who are not in Portugal Manual, because sometimes they don't want to be part of what we are doing or they just don't see the point of joining a community like ours. Or, most of the time, we never met each other :-)
Till the end of the year we will integrate some new brands that we have been building a relationship with for so long, I'm really happy about that. For example Guida Fonseca, Filipa Won and Toino Abel. 

What services or support do you provide for them?

First of all we want to make them known. through our platforms, both online and offline as I referred before. The first one was an Open Portfolio website. There you can find all of the artists and makers who are part of Portugal Manual Network. In the website that we are actually  improving, We also provide to the whole community a place where they can express themselves. It's a blog where they can write news about recent releases or just to introduce a new collection. This really makes sense, not just for those who don't have a website but also for those who have it, to reach new audiences. We know that a lot of new partners, such as new market places and shops, are using our platform to find these people. Recently, as I answered some questions before, we made a partnership with Visit Portugal, and we launched a new website focused on Creative Tourism in Portugal. Our goal is to introduce people who are redesigning novelty in Portuguese tradition to the ones who are enthusiastically looking for these creators in Portugal (mainland and islands).
Portugal Manual
Instagram is one of the most important ways to communicate these projects. We curate very carefully all the pictures that we publish. We know the importance of image to tell the stories and to engage other people with our objectives. We use it for live casts with the makers. We invite them to open the doors to their creative worlds. Showing the workshops and their practice hand-on, giving them a voice to talk about themselves, what's their purpose, inspiration and stories. Once again, to make them known. 
Recently, we launched the first Portuguese podcast fully dedicated to new artisans, artists and makers. Once a week you can travel deep inside their world. They speak about creativity, how everything starts, production processes, difficulties they felt, and so on. We also invited our members to share with us their playlists, the songs that they listen to at work. Once again, it's part of the storytelling to make them known.  
We promote international exhibitions and tailor made events (aboard or in Portugal). Our main goal is always to make the artists and their handmade techniques known.
And how about the work that the public doesn't see?
We provide consulting one 2 one. And sometimes it's just as simple as offering our time to share an opinion, to listen and try to find a solution together, to make connections with someone who perharps can have the solution. Be there.  
We built a network of services providers, chosen and curated by us. Such as photographers, social media managers, website providers, designers, PR partners, content producers and so on.
We also organized regular online meetings where we can change ideas, doubts, solutions and strategies. a place where we promote discussions that are really important for the sector such as, prices policies, consignations, partners, shops, providers. 
The last one but not the least, our Portugal Manual network.

We choose whatsApp as the main tool to have easy daily and direct contact with each other. A place where they can ask something and get answers really fast (sometimes not that fast) or  just to share an opinion or an exhibition or a new collection. 
Loja CCB Portugal Manual Luz Editions
What kind of experiences do you usually organize? Workshops? Master-classes? 
When we identify that interests exist, or they ask us to do something specific, we find better solutions to give them the answers and the tools, for example, we produce the masterclasses with our partners as we are offering here during these days.  

The themes can be very diverse but all go around the difficulties and the business issues that  they all shared. For example: how to make a communication strategy? How can I sell my products to stores? How should I introduce my work to others? How did I calculate the correct price of my work? How can I improve the design of my products? 
Portugal Manual is, in some way, hand in hand with entrepreneurship and even with tourism, taking some brands on display. You're starting a series of Curated Cultural Experiences in partnership with Visit Portugal, what can you tell about it?
Portugal Manual, Curated Cultural Experiences  - features artisans and artists who, from the north to the south of the country, as well as in the islands of Madeira and the Azores, recover traditional crafts and local raw materials. They create contemporary, personalized and unique pieces, developing small-scale production using modern technologies, in an entrepreneurial perspective that promotes a sustainable economy.

Based on four pillars - Hear, See, Feel ,Be - Portugal Manual Curated Cultural Experiences is a unique and immersive experience that can be lived from the comfort of home or directly in Portugal.

Hear Portugal - First Portuguese podcast entirely dedicated to new artisans and artists who dared to return to the Manual. Weekly episodes every Friday at 6pm on podcast platforms: spotify, apple podcast and google podcast;

See Portugal - 15 mini documentaries, produced by Director Graça Castanheira, which take us on a journey through the universe and the creation process; Photographs by Pedro Sadio;

Feel Portugal, Be Portugal - An invitation to be part of these experiences, from home or on a visit to Portugal.

Feel invited to a new experience. Meet who redesigns the Portuguese tradition of innovation. Stay up to date with the latest in the sector.

Cultural Curated Experiences Portugal Manual

Since the launch of Portugal Manual, what are the milestones you have reached?
The recognition of our work, both by the people and brands that are part of our network and by all of our partners. 
To be recognized by private companies and public institutions as an important player in the sector.
But what makes us really proud is that we started an innovative project that inspired so many others to look at the New Portuguese Crafts. 
How do you see the future of craftsmanship in Portugal? What are the challenges for the future?

Contrary to the speeches of a few years ago, which predicted the disappearance of artisanal work, we are witnessing a growth of interest in the product made manually in contemporary society. Because it has a sustainable nature, a theme that has grown in recent years, and also an aura of belonging.

Contrary to the movements created by fast fashion, there is a niche that looks for products with soul. Questioning price less and questioning history more. New generations of buyers, who were born in a fully digital era and who, due to this lack of identity and sense of belonging, demand differentiated products that have an increased cultural sense. I believe that the demand for handmade products, much more than a trend, is a way of life!

Thank you Filipa for sharing your passion with the world!
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