A few months ago I went to visit our resident ‘Birdman’ Alan Vittery and did a little story on him (if you are curious you can still find it online), but while I was at his house I kept seeing these piles of, well… rubbish everywhere. There were old bits of driftwood, wires, computer circuit boards and broken fans scattered all around the place.
But upon closer inspection I saw that all this clutter was actually coming together (quite literally) to become the most beautiful works of art. Old water taps, strings and screws, door knobs and pieces of cork were all transforming into crazy intricate faces and seaside places - with beautiful sunset paintings providing the perfect backdrop for bits of an old chair that had now become delightful wooden ‘shanty towns’.
I was totally enchanted, but Alan told me it wasn’t his doing and that these wonders were the work of his wife Paula who was always bringing back what she found at the bins and making these things to sell in her shop ‘Portfacts’ in Lagos. I was determined to visit sometime, and as The Portugal News now has this ‘Arts’ page (where we are endeavouring to spread the word about talented local artists) when I was in Lagos last week, I thought I’d pop in.
And boy I am glad I did. The shop itself is really quite tiny but the incredible thing is, that I must have been in there for half an hour (or more) and I probably didn’t see everything, and as I chatted away to Paula I had to keep stopping to say “Wow! Look at that...oh...and that!”.
There’s just SO many things to see, all the way from the ‘3D paintings’ where pictures of the sea are being sailed seamlessly across on cork and string boats, to the more tiny treasures like the pieces of ‘calcada’ stones that have been painted into a colourful village, or beautiful stone cork stoppers and boxes of cats with wire whiskers. It seems anything Paula decides to give a ‘lick of paint’ turns from a mundane object that would soon be discarded into a true work of art.
Paula is such a lovely lady and her art and paintings are just so good that I felt that they must have been the work of a lifetime, and so I was shocked when Paula laughed and told me that she hasn’t always been an artist. In fact, Portfacts has only been open a year. Originally from Brazil, Paula used to be a lawyer until she moved to the island of Santa Maria in the Azores where she became a hairdresser and met Alan, and when they moved to the Algarve she thought she could either start hairdressing again, or try her hands at something new. I think that means that as ‘sketchy’ as our sketches might be - there’s hope for us all.
Paula told me that she likes to put a quirky creative spin on Portuguese classics, and in the shop you can see traditional roosters rolling their eyes about their curly string headbands, and sardines in their bikinis pouting with thick red lipsticked lips.
My personal favourites were her collection of mugs on which she had painted all kinds of animals from giraffes and elephants to whales and octopuses, but I’m sorry to tell you that the most beautiful one isn’t there anymore. It’s a charming chameleon cup with which the lizard’s tail is the handle and it’s using its long tongue to catch a pesky fly on the other side of the mug. I’m so in love with it, almost so much so that I did think that maybe I shouldn’t use it, and just leave it up for decoration as I’m bound to drop it. But then I thought about something that actress Helena Bonham Carter said: “I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.”
Did you catch it? She said “the way you drink your tea”, so I’m determined to throw caution to the wind and enjoy it while it lasts.
After all, it would be far worse if I never used it and it toppled off the top shelf anyway. Life is art and I’m going to savour every sip, and when I inevitably let slip this ‘Lovely Leon’, providing he’s not too ‘Humpty Dumpty’ about it, I’ll put him in the garden and he will make a great plant pot I’m sure.
I was completely struck by Paula’s work and how she makes everyday things and even junk into truly some of the most beautiful art works I’ve ever seen, and it just proves something that I’ve long suspected to be the case: that you don’t need money to make beautiful things, all you need is a little imagination - which Paula, along with rubbish, has heaps of.
If you want to go and have a little look yourself, Paula is usually open every afternoon (except Sunday), but for exact times go and look at her Facebook page ‘Portfacts’, and when you’ve finished doing that, then click on the directions and allow Google Maps to help you navigate the cobbled labyrinth that is Lagos and take you right to her door.
You’ll know it’s her shop as outside are standing her latest creations: Paper sculptures of a Portuguese couple called Manuel and Maria who, I was delighted to see, are dressed in their finest The Portugal News attire. In fact, the very newspaper you are reading is destined to become wrapping paper for any gifts you might buy in her shop (with a fabulous final flourish added as well, of course).
Please note that due to Covid-19 restrictions open hours are subject to change.