Verdi has long been one of Gràcia’s liveliest streets, where bars vie for space with independent shops of all descriptions. That quirky, offbeat vibe now extends up the hill beyond Carrer de l’Or, where the shawarma restaurants and cinema-goers thin out. It’s all down to a combination of traditional shops with original new ventures.
Costuretas Social Club opened in 2013, and the sewing machine on their logo says it all. It’s a meeting place for self-taught dressmakers who rent equipment by the hour (there are machines, interlockers, a cutting table and other sewing facilities) and crafty types who come for the specialist workshops, learning new techniques and finishing an original craft project in a single session. The team behind Costuretas, Maite Regué and her daughter Irune, ensure there’s a steady stream of contemporary craft ideas on offer. Some past projects include a crocheted rug, baby slippers, a wool purse and silver ring, as well as multi-day intensive courses. Costuretas has kept the lovely hydraulic tiled floor of the florist’s that once occupied the space, and as well as the workstations, there’s a small kitchen and a tiny garden terrace for clients of all ages. There’s also craft merchandise on sale, with DIY kits from Japideis, fabrics by Nunoia and Ana Cuevas, and bags by Bao and Musa Bamba.
Three vintage shop dummy heads stare at a revolving fruit pastille, as if hypnotised by its chewable charms. And it’s just as easy for passers-by to become entranced by Çukor, a laboratory of sugary treats run by three experts in all things sweet. Hungarian Peter Nagi, Frenchman Manuel Abraham and local Jabier Poveda argue that their artisanal candies, in all their enticing shapes and colours, have more in common with health food than the products plied by the confectionary industry. After sampling a chunky handmade fruit pastille, followed by a sliver of honey-candied ginger, we’re inclined to agree. Çukor specialises in traditional recipes from around the world, and, without flour or eggs, they make Brazilian coconut balls, liquorice to an old-fashioned Dutch recipe, Turkish 'pismaniye' and Danish 'berlingots'. The attractively restored interior invites a return visit – to stock up on sweets or, if you have the time, to learn how to make your own, at the weekend workshops run by these kings of candy.
Wood is one of the most versatile materials around, allowing you to give your creativity a free rein and make every single piece unique, according to self-taught designer Emmanuel Wagnon, originally from Lille. Using wood reclaimed from pallets, he makes everything from simple picture frames to elaborate pieces of furniture. The rocking chair fashioned from a bobbin and the coffee table on wheels are some of the most eye-catching pieces in his store, Rekup and Co., which opened in 2014. You’ll also find original juxtapositions of iron and wood in his ready-made lamps: his next venture is going to be into the world of light boxes.
When restorer Mònica Font Chiariello opened her bric-a-brac and vintage furniture shop in 2006, she named it after one of the composer Giuseppe Verdi’s least-known operas: Alzira is a place that’s always worth dropping in on, with a steady stream of unique pieces arriving – it might be a vintage dress, a gymnastic vaulting box converted into a bench or a lamp made from a tree trunk. Pride of place is definitely taken by industrial furniture, followed by period pieces from the 1920s to the 1980s. Font and her business partner restore furniture to revive the original patina, but often preserve dints or paint splashes that show the history and character of the piece. If repainting is necessary, they do it with their own unique mixtures. In the yard where they work, they put the finishing touches to new finds – like a 1940s workbench, a real gem.