This will be an article dedicated to the delicate objects of mothers and grandmothers. They are seen only once or twice a year, and for the rest of the year, they are inside a fortified and glazed cabinet, from where we can merely glimpse at their whiteness. They have their proper use only when mother or grandmother wants it, that is, at Christmas, at Easter or on a-very-special occasion dinner. They are objects that have been bought with a conscience, with a certainty that they will be the best-kept treasure in the house. They are for life!
The sons and grandsons offer to set the table, but the next second they regret it. They know that every millimetre movement is being controlled, and if there’s a false movement, they hear: “CAREFUL, I’ve had this Vista Alegre without a chip for over 50 years!”
These delicate objects have proudly occupied the tables of Portugal and abroad since 1824. After the king’s consent, the first porcelain factory in Portugal was built in Ílhavo. José Ferreira Pinto Basto, a gentleman far ahead of his time, was responsible for bringing a technique until then unknown in Portugal. The founder changed the slogan from “The secret is the soul of the business” to “Patience is the secret of success”. It took ten years to launch the first piece of porcelain in that factory. In these ten years, the factory did not stop, the workers learned to master the technique of shaping and painting porcelain to perfection. To guarantee sustenance for all the workers’ families, glass pieces were made with reliefs and polished ornaments, after all Portugal already had a history of glassmakers.
José Ferreira Pinto Basto, had a visionary and clear idea about happiness, for him happiness could very well start at work. For this reason, he thought of creating the Vista Alegre community there, on the grounds of the factory. He built family homes, nursery school, theatre and had only one condition, no one in the factory could be illiterate, nor have a lack of sensitivity to beauty. To overcome these small problems, the workers had music lessons, theatre lessons and also lessons to learn how to read and write. All the founder’s ideas about happiness at work were victorious. Nowadays, the painters of Vista Alegre pieces are masters, with a lot of self-confidence in brush strokes and sensitivity for the most delicate drawings.
The pieces Vista Alegre followed the new times, letting in ideas from other artists from several areas. Some of the personalities invited to participate in the history of the factory were the artist Joana Vasconcelos, Válter Hugo Mãe, Siza Vieira, Eduardo Nery, Graça Morais, among others. Partnerships with renowned international brands such as Óscar De La Renta and Christian Lacroix are already regular.
The name Vista Alegre was not a far-fetched choice, but a tribute to the farm where it all began. Before the factory was founded, there was a 17th century chapel and fountain on the farm. In the fountain was an inscription that demonstrated the water properties, one of these properties was to cause a joyful view (=Vista Alegre) to those who drink it.
The factory went through prosperous periods and others not so much, the idea of the disposable was established all over the world. When a plate or glass broke, it was easily replaced by a new and cheap one. The disposable mentality remains today, and the brand knew how to go around, manufacturing unique and exclusive pieces always with the same level of excellence.
We now know the value of the treasures that mothers and grandmothers want to keep so carefully. We also know that at the next very-special dinner, the task of setting the table will not be ours. We know, mainly, that the pieces of Vista Alegre are painted with the colour of happiness, moulded with hands of wisdom and have unbreakable porcelain in the memory of time.