A tile of history

Ivina Azaredo talks to ALISHA PATEL about what goes into making an Azulejo at Velha Goa

When the Portuguese left Goa ending a reign of 450 years, they left behind a lasting impression. Especially in the arts. This fascinated the Late Ivo da Costa Azaredo, fondly known as Bebe, who over the course of his travels to Portugal, stumbled upon and fell in love with azulejos (painted and glazed ceramic tiles). This led to him bringing the art back to Goa and setting up his own brand of azulejos.

DSC_1620Azulejos are a form of Portuguese painted and glazed ceramic tiles. They adorn the walls of houses, churches, restaurants and other prominent places. They also formed a major part of Portuguese architecture and were applied on walls, floors and sometimes even ceilings and were used to depict major historical and cultural aspects of Portuguese history.

In Goa, as you walk down the Rua de Ourem creek in Fontainhas, you reach a quaint store embellished with intricately painted tiles, vases, artifacts, souvenirs and other interesting items. The store is Velha Goa and was founded in the year 1999 by Bebe. Today, the business is run by his daughter Ivina Azaredo. “When my father decided to bring the art of azulejos to Goa, he began by getting down to the history of tile painting in Portugal. He contacted many local artists, and eventually came in contact with an artist named Eduardo Bobone, who not only painted azulejos, but also had a dream of visiting Goa. The two clicked immediately, and thus began the journey of Velha Goa,” she says.

The brand which has come a long way since it started, specializes in traditional hand painted azulejos and carries a line of ceramics and imported products. Talking about the range of products, Ivina states that their artists have been well trained in the art of creating azulejos by experts from Portugal. All their raw materials like clay, colours, glazes, the kilns, tiles, decals and even their brushes come from Portugal. “Even though the painted tiles are manufactured in our workshop at Aquem, Margao, they are as close to the Portuguese products as you can get,” she says. She also goes on to add that their retail store, Velha Goa Galeria at Fontainhas has gained reputation as a unique and popular up market store for original azulejos.

Explaining what goes into making their Azulejos, Ivina explains that to make a perfect Azulejo, one requires a lot of patience, practice and a steady hand – creativity is imperative. “The perfect balance of colour and glaze is important, as is the precise temperature needed to fire the objects – only a perfect combination of all these factors will give you a faultless Azulejo. Being hand painted, to replicate a particular Azulejo is very difficult because of the details involved. For certain patterns, we have made stencils which make the work a bit easier but a single tile with a certain pattern can have around five different stencils with different shades, mixing of colours is a burdensome task to get the shade right it requires a lot of trials. Time is vital and one of the major lessons that I have learnt is that haste always makes waste,” she says.

“Our artists have all been trained by professionals who we have flown down to Goa from Portugal, and who have been working on Azulejos for many many years. Training our artists was a tough job, but now after years of practise, they have become experts themselves,” adds Ivina.

Velha Goa has not only mastered the art of the flawless Azulejo, but has also made it hugely popular, which is why so many churches, chapels, homes and hotels all over Goa are decorated with their products. Their range is extensive as Ivina explains. Besides the tiles, they also have an exclusive range of curios, artefacts, impressions of Goan handicrafts, wall plaques, frames, ceramic bowls and other items. Though the Costas have high flying customers across India who visit regularly, Ivina chooses to be tightlipped about them, only disclosingDSCI0494 a few in the public domain, “We have done work for hotels like Mayfair, Marriott, Cidade de Goa, Park Hyatt, Country Club, Calangute Resort, Casa Goa, Mapusa Residency, the Portuguese Consulate in Goa and Zambaulim Temple,” she proudly declares.

Velha Goa has something for everyone and makes for fantastic souveniers and gifts. The store has even reproduced ceramic works by Goa’s celebrated artist, Mario Miranda.

Looking ahead, Ivina mentions that the brand is looking at expanding their product base as well as opening new stores across the State and maybe even outside the country. She feels the demand for their products has grown substantially and so has the awareness surrounding the historical and aesthetic value of the product and they are on the right track