A couple of years ago, when I started writing these cultural blogs, I featured a charming little coffee cup produced by Cuba´s very own ARTEX company.
Their work has since developed but their goods are still striking, very reasonably-priced, well-made (on the whole) and unique. Buy these and you´ll have something very a lo cubano and special.
They still do the coffee cups (only 6.50 cucs for 6 – see photo) along with umbrellas (from 6.75 cucs), oven gloves, shower curtains and more – and each are printed with the work of some of the island´s best-known artists. This particular umbrella (photo) features the wonderful contemporary artist, Roberto Fabelo, and is modelled here by the very lovely Alejandro – who, by the way, is looking for a girlfriend. (Why he´s not been snatched up is beyond all known understanding). But I digress.
A few ARTEX goods can be found in the Obispo Street Market (Old Havana), but the best places are the ARTEX shops themselves. Avoid the salt and pepper sets (poorly-made tops), the toothbrush/bathroom holders (same problem) and the plates (very heavy). But fill up your cases with the coffee cups, the thicker-material shower curtains, oven gloves and umbrellas. These are all very attractive and wear very well, too.
In ARTEX Cuba has found a way to produce good-looking, inexpensive wares whilst promoting the best of its culture. I´d love to see them develop more, if quality could be assured. What about beach wraps, sun hats, scarves, more ceramic tiles (they used to do them) or material? Anybody out there from ARTEX listening?
ARTEX: Old Havana: Calle Obispo, between Habana and Compostela; 110, Calle San Rafael (El Boulevard) – right by Hotel Inglaterra.
Vedado: Calle 23 and Calle L – directly opposite Hotel Havana Libre