A Closeup Look at the Centuries Old Tradition of Spanish Pottery

One of Laura's favourite local museums to visit in Spain is a working museum of traditional pottery-making in the province of León, the Alfar Museo.

A Closeup Look at the Centuries Old Tradition of Spanish Pottery

Run by Jaime Arguello, a traditional potter and curator of the Alfar Museo, his passion for the history and traditions of pottery making in this region makes it a pleasure to visit! Approximately a one hour drive from León, this is an easy day trip.

Jaime Arguello, master craftsman at the Alfar Museum in Jiménez de Jamuz, Spain

History and Tradition

Jiménez de Jamuz, by tradition is a potter's village and has been for  centuries. With an abundance of high quality clay,  30 wood ovens for firing their pottery and at its zenith 50 traditional potters it supplied pottery throughout the local area. Since the 70’s this has slowly declined. Today there are but a few local artisans.

A small display in the front entrance of the museum.

Traditionally a family business, every family member had a job: the head of the  household was the potter, the women did the glazing and decorating and  children helped with drying and firing of the pots.

The pottery  was sold throughout León at markets and fairs. It was hauled in wicker baskets on the backs of horses or donkeys. The potters also sold or traded with other Spanish villages and towns who each required their own unique dishes and crockery.

A traditional potter's wheel.

Jiménez de Jamuz supplied these regions  with olive jars, water pitchers, pots for cooking, curing and storage, wine jugs and barrels, cups, plates, chocolate pots and hot water bottles.

We also learned about wood burning kilns and traditional dyes.

It is possible to find limited english in Jimenéz de Jamuz. Have a dictionary or google translate ready. The museum has a small entry fee and limited hours. Book in advance and ask for a lesson on pottery throwing. Jaime is a wonderful patient teacher and will guide you along. This will cost you extra and worth every penny.

The Village of Jiménez de Jamuz

There  are professional potters still doing business in the village, it is possible to visit their studio and small store. At these local family businesses, the potter is usually happy to give a demonstration and a tour of his studio and store. If they look closed with the lights off, be sure to try the door. The lights may just be off to save electricity! There may also be a phone number to call on the door and the shop owner will come and let you in. With many items for sale just browsing the  displays and trying to guess what each item is used for has its charm!

Pottery fresh out of the kiln at Alfar Museo!

It is also possible to find their pottery still being sold at fairs and markets throughout the region. Be aware that now there are Chinese replicas being sold throughout Spain of this traditional pottery. If the price is too good to be true you have been for-warned - it is not local!

There is also a problem of the raw material, in this case the clay also being imported from other countries. Be informed and look for a local artisan to buy your pottery.

A hillside of private bodegas in Jiménez de Jamuz.

The Bodegas

The privately owned Bodegas, dug into the hillsides, are a grand sight and good photo opportunity. Traditionally a place to bottle and store their  wine for the year, today the Bodegas are used for family gatherings,  picnics and wine storage.

Jiménez de Jamuz is definitely worth a  visit for pottery, bodegas and oxen steak. Be sure to make a reservation before  you go, especially on weekends.

Traditional bodegas or private wine cellars.

Getting Here

Jimenéz de Jamuz can be found just off the A6 highway. Take exit 303, the signs will say La Bañeza, turn left, go under the highway and at the round-about take the 3rd exit onto the LE110. It is 5 minutes down this highway. Watch coming into town for two big pottery shops on your right - La Catedral del Barro Alfareria and Alfarería Miguel San Juan. Both are worth a visit!

Alfar Museo
C/ Avenida del Cueto
24767 Jiménez de Jamuz (León)
Tf. 987 664488

Eating Here

As  with any Spanish town, there is a choice of restaurants and bars.  Arguably though, the most famous is the Bodega El Capricho restaurant. Known for its  buey or ox steak, it has visitors from all over the world. Be sure to make a reservation before  you go, especially on weekends.

Built right into the side of the hillside utilising a combination of wine cellars, it makes for a cool and inviting lunch spot when temperatures can reach +35℃ in the summer!

More information on the Bodega El Capricho restaurant can be found here:

Bodega El Capricho
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