Jordi Coll, the last clogmaker of Catalonia
At La Manual Alpargatera we have historically tried to offer not only espadrilles —with a wide variety of designs and materials, like esparto grass, hemp, jute, sisal, cotton, line— but also other products related to us, whether due to style, values or tradition. Naturally, one of the products that we had, were Catalan clogs, a traditional Catalan footwear such as espadrilles. If you were in Barcelona city and needed to buy a pair, La Manual Alpargatera was the right place to go. It cannot be said that they were a “top seller”, to put it mildly, but it seemed important to us to help preserve this traditional craft. The fact is that for a long time, the stock we had was more than enough to cover the demand, until someone asked if we had authentic Catalan clogs in a size that we did not have in stock. Obviously, we called our usual provider, a man who lived in a town called Olot and —as far as we knew— the last Catalan clogmaker, but we were told that he had given his tools to a museum a long time ago. They also told us that there was someone in a town called Taradell, who after many years had taken his tools back and was making Catalan clogs again. That’s how we heard about Jordi Coll.
The truth is that it was not so easy to get the clogs made by Jordi, because he was already drawing the media’s attention for being “The last clog craftsman in Catalonia” and he was overloaded by the demand. Luckily, he considered us when he found out that we were from La Manual Alpargatera, and although his production did not fulfill our order, we were able to cover the requests that our clients made during some years.
The first time I spoke with him, I asked him if I could visit him one day to make an interview and record the entire process. Since I had always been fascinated by this job, I thought I could do a great photographic report.
Jordi Coll (Taradell, 1930-2009) learned the trade from a very young age, but once he achieved mastery he had to go to work in a factory, although he kept his workshop and tools. When he retired he was encouraged to resume his craft activity, since the last clogmaker had left the trade and donated the tools to a museum.
For those who do not know, the clog is a shoe that is made from a single piece of wood and in Catalonia it was used with espadrilles on.
I think the images speak for themselves, so I’m going to be sparse with the captions.
The sequence of images shows a recently-cut pine trunk and how he skillfully shapes it. Then he empties it, and after thinning it, smokes it to give it color and “seal” the pores. Afterwards, he carves different shapes to decorate it and finally puts the “cushion” on the instep to prevent wounds caused by the direct rubbing against the wood when walking.
This is our tribute to the last clogmaker in Catalonia, and a call to protect endangered heritage crafts like this one from extinction.