Gran Canaria
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Gran Canaria

Native Culture

Woodwork

For several centuries, Word was the raw material that drove the economic and social development of the island population. The characteristics of each kind of wood determined what it was used for. Basic furnishings include:

The water filter or distiller

The water filter or distiller is an outstanding furnishing of a traditional Canary Island household, which was used to filter drinking water and keep it cool.

It generally consists of three parts or levels. The distilling stone is placed at the top, the central shelf is used for placing the bowl and the lower shelf - or cooler - when there is one, is where another bowl is placed to collect the water when the upper bowl is full, or it can be used for keeping cheese or other food fresh. The whole distiller is sometimes closed within fretwork doors.

The heart wood of the Canary Island pine is used for making the water distiller, which is highly appreciated because it is highly water resistant and easily shaped by the chisels that the craftsmen wield with such skill. Built-in distillers are made from stone, brick or breeze block, with clay or cement used as mortar.

The coffer is a piece of furniture that acts as both a seat and a trunk. It is made from heart wood or Canary Island mahogany, in the form of a long bench with legs. The seat is also the lid of the trunk.

For cheese moulds, chairs and stools, chestnut wood is usually used. First of all, the wood is cleaned. The work then continues with chisel and gouges. Then come the hammer, axe and plane to shape the wood. Once the bark and the knots are removed, the piece of wood is given its desired shape. The two back legs of the stool are interesting, in that they continue upwards to form the back, with a carved cross-piece between the two side struts. The motif of the carving is sometimes an artistic half flower, and sometimes it is an interesting geometric form.

Chests made from heart wood, Canary mahogany or cedar are typical pieces of furniture with flat lids (because the wood is so hard). They differ from the Cuban chests you sometimes find on the island, with their curved lids. The chest – dressing tables have one or two drawers with legs on which the chest rests.

Other interesting articles include household utensils for handling food, such as trays, different sized spoons, depending on what they are used for, troughs for kneading bread, mortars, bowls, milking buckets, etc.

Farm equipment makes wonderful craft work: recipients for storing grain and water, barrows, hand trolleys, mill gears, looms, etc. All of these were essential farm implements. But the sea too, in the form of boat building and carpentry, also has a long tradition on the island, mainly in the hands of people involved with coastal fishing.

Balconies, with a wide range of different models, are outstanding elements of the architecture of Gran Canaria. Closed balconies, with gallery, supports and roofs, parapets, fillets and lattice windows, or open balconies, also of different types, with lattice work, banisters and lintels.

The balconies are built with corbels, which give the structure support, a base that is the inner floor and a gallery formed by the parapet.

We can see some fine examples of balconies, mainly in Teror, Telde and Vegueta.

The "timple"

The "timple" (a sort of ukulele) is the musical instrument that is most closely associated with the Canary Islanders, and it is one of the finest and most sophisticated examples of Canary Island craft, as the selection of the wood and the care the instrument requires is essential for attaining the right musical sound.

Once the wood has been selected, usually rose wood, medlar or orange wood, the mould is prepared for assembling the instrument, the ribs, the decorations for the back and front, the neck, for which a light wood like cedar or Spanish fir is used. Pine or fir is used for the front. Once the instrument itself has been made, it is strung with nylon strings.

Galdar, Teror, Ingenio and Telde are the main centres where you can still find craftsmen who make timples by hand.

Looms

The kind of loom used on the island is the "horizontal" cube-shaped loom. The frame is made up of beams, usually heart wood, that fit together horizontally and vertically.

The weaving technique consists of inter-weaving two sets of threads, with the first set (warp) laid out in such a manner so that the second set (weft) passes through them, forming the cloth.

Nowadays, the raw materials used are strips of cloth for rugs and wool for blankets and carpets. In the past, cotton, sisal, linen and silk were used.

Woollen cloth is made as follows: once the sheep has been shorn, the white wool is separated from the black, it is washed and left to dry in the sun, then it is combed (to prevent it from becoming tangled), leaving it ready to be spun. For this, a wooden bobbin is used and a distaff (a simple cane that is split in two at one end) where the wool is placed. From there, it goes to the bobbin almost spun. It is then skeined with a reel, it is washed in cold water (this time with soap), wound into a ball and used to prepare the warp and to thread the loom.

Traditionally, the best weavers were from Ingenio, Telde, Santa Lucia, San Nicolas, Valsequillo, San Mataeo, Teror, Moya and Galdar