By Maureen Santucci
When it comes to craftsmanship, Peru is particularly known for its weavings, especially in the Andes. With a culture that is so closely tied to raising llamas and alpacas, it stands to reason that weavings incorporating wool from these animals would be a staple, both for clothing as well as for decoration.
There is a lot more to the native artisanship than textiles, however. One other area in which Peru excels, and has done so throughout history, is ceramics. And one of the foremost artists in this field is Pablo Seminario.
Pablo, along with his wife Marilú Behar, has spent years studying ceramic styles throughout the many cultures of pre-Colombian Peru. Since the 70s, they have been developing, refining, and advancing what is now come to be known as the “Seminario style of ceramics”.
If you are in the Cusco/Sacred Valley area, a visit to their workshop in Urubamba is a must. Don’t be afraid to ring the bell for admittance – the door is always kept shut. Once you do, you’ll be admitted into a small patio with a fountain with some larger ceramic pieces heralding the magic that is to come.
The first stop on your tour will be a short video presentation explaining the history of Seminario ceramics. After this, you’ll have a tour of the workshop area so you can see the works in progress, going through each stage from modeling to baking to painting.
If you’re lucky, the master himself will be there, as he often is. Pablo Seminario has such a humble and warm presence, it’s hard to believe that he is such a world-famous artist.
Afterward, you’ll want to take a stroll through the onsite store to see the variety of the pieces offered. Some are more utilitarian, such as mugs, plates, sugar bowls and the like. Reasonably priced, they offer a great way to remember your experiences every day once you have returned home.
Other pieces– and some of these are truly extraordinary– are more artistic in nature. Have you ever considered hanging a piece of ceramics on your wall instead of a painting? You will after you see these. In fact, you’ll never think of ceramics in the same way again. There’s no need to worry about having to carry your purchase around with you for the day. The store can send them to your hotel or even have them shipped for you.
Often copied but never duplicated, Seminario ceramics are the perfect gift– for loved ones or for yourself. They represent the seamless blend of ancient and current Peru, and have an unforgettable style that will look good in almost any ambiance.
If you’re feeling a bit peckish after your visit, just across the street is the delicious Kaia café. Kaia offers a wide range of healthy (and less so) cuisine, including several vegetarian choices. There’s even a small playground for children, which might be a nice treat (along with a milkshake) after putting up with mom and dad’s shopping spree.
For something more gourmet, lunch or dinner at El Huacatay is another great option. Chef Pio Vásquez de Velasco has an almost uncanny ability to subtly blend sometimes unusual Andean ingredients in a way that brings out the flavor in each other without overpowering one another, making this restaurant absolutely one of the best not only in the Sacred Valley but in the entire Cusco region.
Originally from the US, Maureen Santucci now calls the ancient Peruvian capital of Cusco home, where she has lived for 7 years, working as a travel consultant as well as writing for Fodors Travel Guide. This article was written on behalf of Aracari Travel, experts in providing luxury tours to Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.