Malta Diary If the sun shines too much outside, block it out – but deploy floor and wall tiles to bring the colour in!
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Artistic craftsmanship has been slowly but surely dwindling and disappearing throughout the Maltese Islands, previously well-renowned for lace-making and gold filigree work as well as carpentry and wrought-iron works.
The march of time and money, tied to many hours of patient and laborious work as well as a continual invasion of foreign produce have rendered these mostly uneconomic to become a true labour of love and artisanship – and even those have become of short duration nowadays.
After all, there is Facebook and Twitter to take up the time and continual internet browsing to catch up with the latest and gain a global insight. These have become more attractive than sitting for hours twiddling with a lace weaver to produce a pattern.
In the past, Gozo teemed with lace-makers sitting outside their front door on a stool deftly fingering a spindle and producing the most fascinating of patterns. Now they have virtually disappeared.
In almost every street there was a carpenter making wooden furniture and carrying out repairs. There were also bakeries baking fresh and delicious bread, tarts and general wheat confectioneries. Nowadays, almost all have virtually disappeared.
As with everywhere else, Malta’s residential and other buildings were constructed to take into account the normally annually sparse rainfall and usually six months of blazing sunshine and heat.
The roofs of Maltese buildings are flat (as with many other Mediterranean localities) unlike the slanted roofs of buildings in northern Europe to enable constant rainfall to drain away.
In northern Europe construction is aimed at trying to ensure the best possible intake of the sun’s rays. In Malta, the ploy is to keep them out and ensure a cool temperature and shade – naturally, all before stuff like fans and air-conditioning came into being.
Throughout the summer months, many households were kept in darkness, shutters firmly closed to combat the blazing rays. This naturally caused a somewhat dark and sombre internal atmosphere – and something had to be done about it.
This is the Central Mediterranean, a locality of a blaze of colours and therefore because of the intensity of the heat these colours could not be enjoyed externally for half the year; the alternative was to bring them into the home.
Hence the artisanship of tile making for floors and walls and thus bringing the vivacity of colour indoors in a combination of colours and fascinating normally symmetric patterns to sooth and please the eye – and give that shiny cleanliness scene.
Malta’s floors were not normally carpeted and neither was linoleum used. Light rugs were used in winter but these disappeared at the beginning of May. Instead, the floors were tiled.
The patterning and colouring of tiles shows an obvious Ottoman Turk and Arab influence.
In direct contrast to the sad but continuing disappearance of most artisanship, the art of cement tile-making is still very much alive and still very much sought-after, and this despite the import of cheap ceramic foreign floor and wall tiles.
Fortunately, one can still visit a tile-maker, discuss and then order a tile-pattern to suit one’s desires – and may this be never-ending!
“He first jumps and then thinks about it while falling”
The foolishness of taking erratic decisions, diving in head-first and then suffering the consequences.
“Listen to everything but only believe as you feel and judge”
With all the fake news swirling around the world today, solid words of advice.