So you’re in Madrid for a few days and between all the tapas and traversing the city you still want to pick up a worthy souvenir. The trouble is, all the tourist shops seem to be selling cheaply made plastic trinkets that you’d be embarrassed to stick to your fridge. Thankfully, Madrid is in the midst of a resurgence of the handmade and there’s no shortage of locally crafted goods up for grabs. What better way to remember this city than a keepsake that was designed, made, and found in Madrid?
For the first part of this series you’ll find a unique cane artisan, a modern shoe brand, a beautiful porcelain jewelry showroom, a traditional cake-shop, and even a clandestine gift-shop. Who knows, as you hunt for the perfect memento, you might even discover a whole new side to the Spanish capital…
Javier S Medina Artesano, Ornaments
Tucked away in his small Malasaña workshop, Javier S Medina is usually busy handcrafting his range of decorative animals and frames. Hand-woven with cane, the native Extremaduran has brought his region’s age-old artisanship to the capital and his creations can be spotted in shops, bars, and restaurants throughout the city. His quirky animals come in all shapes and sizes and range from the heads of bulls, deer, and even the odd rhinoceros. Medina exemplifies a new generation of Spaniards that are seizing the bull by the horns (in his case, quite literally), as they build up their own small businesses or labels to ride out the choppy waters of the economic crisis. His workshop, just a short walk from Plaza San Ildefonso, also exhibits the creations of other local craftsmen including hand-painted crockery and ornaments.
Address: Calle Escorial 28
Ever since this shoe brand launched in 2013 it has gone from strength-to-strength. Young entrepreneurs Roberto Heredia and Esmeralda Martín developed Muro.exe by enlisting a team of industrial designers and even a bio-mechanical engineer to realise their vision. “We sought out professionals that had never designed a shoe, and would approach the design process from scratch with the most basic elements to achieve a more minimalist, functional silhouette,” explains Martín. “It’s a stylish, versatile, easy-fit shoe for adults.” Sales in countries such as Germany, Sweden, and Japan have grown exponentially – as has their HQ in the cool Conde Duque district. The pair is also committed to Spanish manufacturing; all their shoes are produced on the outskirts of the historic town of Toledo. Their shoes are sold in some of Madrid’s most stylish retailers: 101 Maisons D´Esprits Créatifs: www.101maisondespritscreatifs.com/; Isolee Claudio Coello: www.isolee.com/; Isolee Calle Infantas: www.isolee.com/; Playground: play-ground.es/tienda/es/; Eduardo Rivera: eduardorivera.es/; and Duke: www.facebook.com/dukeshoes
Address: See websites above
Andrés Gallardo, Jewellery and Accessories
You’ll find the exquisite porcelain creations by Andres Gallardo in some of the world’s best shops in Japan, Hong Kong, and London, but the entire collection is housed in their somewhat secretive showroom here in Madrid. Designers Andrés Gallardo and Maria Casal, who both studied fashion, started making their handcrafted porcelain and brass jewelry as a hobby, but their success was so swift that it quickly became a coveted brand with international reach. Made from porcelain and 18-carat gold-plated brass, the pieces are inspired by flora, fauna, and other Iberian whimsical motifs and the collection has expanded to include small leather handbags and totes. If you ask nicely, the designer duo might even let you have a peak at the workshop tucked neatly behind their showroom.
Address: Calle Conde de Romanones 5 (inside the interior patio)
Metro: Tirso de Molina or Sol
Casa Mira, Sweets and Cakes
This traditional cake shop is just a short walk from Puerta del Sol and has a history that stretches all the way back to 1842 when Luis Mira opened his first shop in Plaza Mayor. The family business moved closer to the Spanish parliament in 1856 and have been purveying their sweet trufas (truffles), peladillas (candied almonds), turrón (nougat), and bombones (small chocolates) here ever since. A team of mild-mannered women manage the space and will happily oblige any customer looking to fill one of their traditional Casa Mira branded tins. Be sure to inspect the revolving display in the front window before satisfying your sweettooth.
Address: Carrera San Jerónimo 30
Metro: Sol or Sevilla
El Imparcial, Restaurant and Giftshop
Not far from the Tirso de Molina square, a group of local entrepreneurs recently converted a former newsroom into a sleek café, restaurant, and shop. The retail space pays homage to the building’s past and includes a well-curated selection of books, magazines, stationary, and other handcrafted wares. Leaf through titles that include the eccentric works of local photographer Chema Madoz, Asier Rua’s colourful insight into Madrid Interiors, or the tongue-in-cheek titles Con Dos Huevos, Cagando Leches, and Spain for the Foreigners, which all parody Spanish vernacular and culture. There’s jewelry by Helena Rohner, dsnú, and Guille García-Hoz, notebooks by Imborrable, and sunglasses by Tiwi. If you’re in the mood to explore, pick up one of the illustrated neighbourhood maps by Walk With Me, which are designed so beautifully that you’ll probably want to frame them once you get home.
Address: Calle Duque de Alba 4
Metro: Tirso de Molina