Capdepera and Artà are known for the wide array of craft trades that are still present today in many small workshops around this area. You can find ceramics, bread, footwear and jewellery etc, but without doubt the most sought object is "la senalla de llata". You will see these precious handcrafted baskets made from dried palm leaves in every corner of the town. Today the business has evolved and you can find them in all shapes, sizes and colours.
Llata is the art of braiding fan palm leafs, which have been previously treated in order to make different objects (baskets, hats, fans, carpets, muzzles, brooms, etc.). It is a millenary art, even older than pottery. Traces of it have been found in the archaeological remains of the talayotic era.
Barely any tools are used to make the different products: the hands, a sharp knife to cut leaves, and different sized needles to sew and give them the desired shape. And of course a dose of talent and patience.
The European fan palm, or Mediterranean dwarf palm, is the only palm tree native to Europe and endemic of the western Mediterranean. The fan palm inhabits highly austere and rough terrains. In Majorca you can find it at the Península de Llevant, in the north and west of the island. It can reach up to two meters; its trunk is conical and fibrous-like and its leaves are fan shaped. The flowering season of the palm is from March till May and its fruit or dates, which are reddish green, germinate in September. It is a protected species and it is absolutely forbidden to uproot.
As any other handmade process, timing requires a great amount of patience. The recollection of the palm tree leaves takes place during the first 15 days of July; up to three leaves can be torn out of each tree. During the next 20 days the leaves are arranged on a special drying rack placed in an inclined position facing west to take full advantage of the daylight hours. Every 6 or 7 days the leaves must be turned over. Palm leaves should be dry by Saint Roch’s day on the 16th of August. Once they are dry, the filaments are separated and the best leaves are chosen. The next step consists of immersing the leaves into sulphur so they can acquire a whitish colour and flexibility. From here the filaments can be worked with and braided into the typical flattened form.
"Llata" was traditionally considered to be a woman's activity, and served as additional income for modest Majorcan households. Housewives usually sold their products to wholesalers who would resell them. At the beginning of the 20th century in Capdepera, llata was a booming activity and its high demand led to the creation of a cooperative to export the llatra products out of Majorca. The growth of tourism meant that its economic importance diminished and production was more oriented to the demand of visitors. Nowadays, there are a few groups of women who keep the tradition alive, the most outstanding examples being the “Madones de la Llata” from Capdepera.
The best place to learn about the prehistoric age of Majorca. Founded in 1927 by a group of intellectuals and scientists with advanced ideas to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of Artà and the island.
It takes place every afternoon from Monday to Thursday all year long. 6 women in their 70s and 80s sit together in a small workshop to make "llata". A decade ago they got involved in this lovely pastime that, in addition to making them well known, has done a lot for the preservation of this centenary trade.
T. +34 971 463 032
Guillem Casellas is a master craftsman of "llata". In his workshop inside his house in Foravila, he treats, dyes and sews the fan palm leaves to handcraft a number of objects that he then sells in nearby markets or at the haberdasher's run by his wife in the village of Artà .
C/ Teulera 7, Artà