CHAO DE PARADA, Portugal (Reuters) - Husband and wife Francisco and Casilda Figueiredo are among the last exponents of a traditional Portuguese handicraft — making ornamental ceramic penises.
For more than three decades, the couple have carefully shaped thousands of ceramic male organs, moulding them into upright shapes and painting them in life-like colours for export to Germany, France and North America.
Francisco and Casilda, aged 68 and 65, still toil away in a humble village workshop in the Caldas da Rainha region, about 100 km (60 miles) north of Lisbon, but say the tradition is dying out.
“The days of the ceramics trade here are numbered, I see no possibility of survival,” Francisco said as he prepared moulds of the couple’s top-of-the-range two-foot phallic-shaped bottles in his workshop. “It will never be like it was in the past.”
The bottle sells for 15 euros (11.8 pounds)
The tradition is said to have started in Caldas da Rainha
when King Dom Luis, who ruled from 1861 to 1889, suggested that local potters make something more interesting.
A renowned caricaturist, Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, gave the initial inspiration, prompting Caldas da Rainha to expand on its tradition as a pottery centre.
“Nobody knows exactly what started the tradition, they say it was Dom Luis, but I don’t know if it’s true or not,” said Francisco.
The traditional craft has faced a slow decline as buyers in Portugal and beyond become more liberal and the figures lose their ability to provoke.
The couple produce ceramic mugs with a penis sticking out of the bottom or the side, penis-shaped bottles and ceramic soccer figures with the male organ popping out from under a flag.
Francisco said that during the peak of their business they were producing 1,000 bottles a month.
“There were many people making ceramics, but now locally there is just us,” said Casilda. “We exported to Germany, Canada and France. Today we just sell to visitors and local shops.”
Reporting by Axel Bugge and Miguel Pereira