'Sa Maleta' Handbag
'Sa Maleta' is, as it’s 'Es Maletí', a design that dates back to the early/mid 20th Century. The culture of working with palm was so present at that time in Mallorca, that women would have an array of different traditional bags for each occasion: 'es carreter' (literally, the cart driver), 'sa senalla' (a bell-shaped bag)… Each one serving its own individual purpose.
What makes Sa Maleta different from Es Maletí is basically the size. Sa Maleta is bigger and that's why it's perfect for carrying everything you need, either if you are going to the beach, enjoying one or two days out of town or just coming back from the local market with groceries. As a design made for travelling, Sa Maleta bears a clasp, which is also made of palm, to protect money and private belongings from nosy strangers. Sa Maleta, including its stitching, has been crafted entirely with a kilo and a half of palm fibre.
Measurements: 36 x 32 x 12 cm. aprox.
Model height: 162 cm.
Guillem has lost count of how many generations of his family have worked with palm. Nor can he remember exactly how old he was when he started himself: “It’s just what I have always known. When I was five, my mother used to pick me up from school and ask me to make a braid before I would go out to play or even before I did my homework!.”
Later he began to accompany her to the workshop where she worked. There he learned to master the skill and with that, some 30 different ways to weave palm. Today he is one of the few, if not the only person who continues to work this trade in Mallorca.
Until recent decades, work in palm crafting was very common in the northeast of the island. Guillem remembers there were around 8 or 9 workshops, each with more than fifty women employed there. However, the surge of tourism left the sector without a workforce. Back then, Guillem’s family was one of the few that continued the trade.
Handcrafted bags and hats made from palm are not done by sewing together different pieces. They are made by weaving braids of some 18-20 metres which are then weaved together
The quality of the palm is crucial. Our craftsman Guillem goes to select and handpick it from the mountains in Majorca. Nobody else does that anymore. Palm can only be gathered in summer when there is no dewfall and the palm is dry. It is then kept for 10-12 days to droop. Next, the stem is cut and placed in for twelve more days in specially designed ovens of sulphur smoke. Sulphur discolours the palm and gives it flexibility so that it can be manipulated. After it comes out of the oven any spoiled parts are removed and the palm is cut to equal sizes. Piles are made according to touch and colour, some will serve for weaving and embroidery, others for basket weaving, some for handles and others for rugs.
Guillem explains that as he is the only tradesman that takes care of the whole production process (from palm collection to craftsmanship), he has plenty of work. However, he doesn’t like the idea of being the last one working this craft in Mallorca. He says that many Japanese people visit him and ask to be taught so that they can replicate his work in Japan, but he is yet to find anyone to whom he can pass on his legacy on the island.