Oliva Creative Factory

The lines of memory
04 / 05 / 2015
Text: Alexandra Novo
Photography: Carlos Cezanne
Article originally published in ATTITUDE #55 - November/December 2013

Over a period of 80 years, Oliva was a part of the Portuguese imagination, leaving its mark on the history of Portuguese industry, architecture, design and advertising. The visionary, cutting-edge management of its founder, António José Pinto de Oliveira, allowed him to create one of the biggest companies in the country, employing 3000 workers in its heyday. As an icon of Portuguese culture, the Oliva sewing machines reached all areas of Portuguese daily life through communicative action and innovative graphic images produced by the best designers and photographers of the time, keeping pace with the golden age of modernism and pampering the ego of the nation with a message based on “proud to be Portuguese”. It reached homes through television sets, streets, squares and city façades in the shape of glowing advertisements and painted tiles. It reached the cinema in film adverts such as ‘A Costureirinha da Sé’ and ‘Sonhar é fácil’. But, it went even further and organised courses for fabric cutting, sewing and embroidery, training more than 34,000 students, held famous competitions such as ‘Chintz dresses’ and the annual competition for the election of Miss Oliva, and created two musical marches recorded on vinyl and offered to those buying the sewing machines. In 1969, Oliva was bought by the American group ITT – International Telephone Corporation – and thirty years later, it closed its doors for good, marking the end of a story that is now also ours. Located in São João da Madeira, the Oliva factory building is now more than just part of our industrial architectural heritage; it is the starting point for a new phase inspired by the daring feats of the past.  



In this place full of memories, the Municipal Council of São João da Madeira has created a new space geared towards stimulating different cultural and economic areas, where art meets entrepreneurship and where business thrives on talent, innovation and creativity. The Oliva Creative Factory Oliva opens as the perfect space for creative industry, with the mission of bringing together and stimulating skills for the generation and qualification of creative talent, in partnership with local industry (footwear, clothes, textiles and moulds) and emerging sectors such as design, fashion, digital and multimedia. This incubator for the development of business projects and hosting companies in the creative industry will be complemented by a series of workshops, studios and prototype development spaces, offering entrepreneurs interdisciplinary spaces for creative meetings and convergence. Following the installation of the businesses, Oliva Creative Factory has inaugurated a wing dedicated to contemporary art, dance and art restoration, presenting the public with Núcleo de Arte Oliva, where one can currently view the Coleção Norlinda e José Lima in an impressive exhibition containing more than a thousand works of art organised by Miguel Amado, the Portuguese commissioner whose CV includes collaboration with the Tate Gallery and the organisation of the Portuguese Pavilion at the present Venice Biennale. In addition to the Oliva Historic Nucleus, an essential visit in order to understand the genesis of the new structure, artists, businesspeople, creatives and the general public can enjoy a vast range of spaces and facilities, among them the Business Centre for mature businesses with a creative orientation, the São João da Madeira Arts Centre, the Ana Luísa Mendonça dance school, art residencies and a commercial art callery. Keep an eye on the schedule for this year; there will be endless reasons to enjoy the new life of ‘The machine that makes happiness’.