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Painting Tiles in Portugal

An example of some of the detailed painted tiles seen in the Azurara Palace.

The Portuguese have been painting on tiles for hundreds of years, so when the chance came for Semester at Sea students to try their hand at this incredible art form, everyone was excited.

The day started off in sunny Lisbon, the busy, metropolitan capital of Portugal, where a group of about 30 students, faculty and lifelong learners set out to visit the Ricardo do Espirito Santa Silva Foundation and the Higher School of Decorative Arts.

The first part of our day took us to the Alfalma district, the oldest part of Lisbon that was once under Moorish rule. Students were led through small alleyways that wound up near the old Moorish wall, an impressive sight that divides the new city from the old.

We then reached the Ricardo do Espirito Santa Silva Foundation and were able to walk through the Azurara Palace before tile painting.

Courtney Tanner from Salt Lake Community College tries her best to follow the stencil as she paints her tile. The tiles were delivered to the students on the ship the next day.

Painting on tiles is no easy task. To get the clean lines you see in tiles all over Lisbon, you first have to rub charcoal over a sketch onto a blank tile, and then, try your best to follow the lines.  The students were fully immersed in the process and created impressive pieces art that followed in this historic tradition.

Our day ended by exploring the Institute of Arts and Crafts, where students and workers recreate Portuguese art, and make art in the traditional manner: binding golden books with gold, carving wooden tables in ornate detail, and crafting belts with a loom.

“My favorite part of the day was visiting the arts and crafts center,” said Courtney Tanner, a fashion student from Salt Lake Community College, “I really enjoyed learning more about how things are made. And painting tiles, I loved.”


We could paint our tiles in many different colors, but most chose blue.
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