The Straw Shop is pleased to introduce a style of tied straw work known as Gorres De Cop. This is the first style of straw work we are aware of from Catalonia.
Catalonia is bordered on the north by France and Andorra. To the east is the Mediterranean Sea. Spain is to the south. Twelve thousand square mile Catalonia is recognized historically as an autonomous area; though some of its historic borders are in present day Spain.
The following history is what we have translated and learned from Ana Isabel Sánchez-Marín Martinez to whom we offer our gratitude for sharing.
Translation into English is difficult. At times the terms Cops Cap and Gorres de Cop have been uses interchangeably. Gorres de Cop translates as tower, or turret, or steeple, but Ana Isabel translates the complete term as ‘stroke caps’ or ‘once caps’ or ‘punch caps’. In other parts of Spain they are known as Chichonera a word associated with protecting toddlers by using bumpers, such as a crib bumper, so perhaps it translates as a bumper hat. Whatever the accurate translation, as with bourrelet hats the intention of a Cops Cap is to protect the head of a toddler.
The Cops Cap hats are made in the same way as Yeddo hats; similar ties, hidden straw joins and waxed threads. Cops Cap hats have round crowns, unlike the oval crowns of other tied straw hats made to protect a child’s head. This hat style is thought to be unique to a specific village in Catalonia. Interestingly, the tools used to make the hats are very different from those used in Switzerland to produce the Yeddo or Röhrlihut.
The following is Ana Isabel’s story of this hat’s history and revival:
“In 1800 there was a basket maker in the town of Bellvei, Tarragona, Catalonia, named Mr. Roc Vidal. As a merchant he noticed young children would often bump (or punch) their heads when learning to walk. As a basket maker, he designed, and thought himself to be the first creator of a tied straw hat with an extended brim to protect a young child’s head.
Also known as Roc Headwear, Mr. Vidal taught as many as 60 women in the town of Bellvei the techniques necessary to make the hats. This hat style became popular and the town of Bellvei proudly became known for them.
Through the Gorres de Cop workshops taught by Roc Vidal, the “Cops Cap” became successful outside the region of Catalonia. These little hats were quite popular. The workers went on to create other tied straw items such little fans, baskets, and jewelry pieces.”
Over the years, the craft dwindled. By 1998, the last Cops Cap hat had been made and the craft of Gorres De Cop disappeared.
The child’s hat, so uniquely associated with the town’s identity, was revived in 2001 thanks to the efforts and passion of the Mayor of Bellvei, Josep Fonts Batlle, who sought to rescue, maintain and preserve this straw method and hat that had been so closely associated with Bellvei. Mayor Battle needed the support of various agencies for his cause to revive Gorres de Cop straw work. Receiving the support needed, the Mayor then sought local women to become a part of a school council. Initially he found 4 women willing to research, resurrect and then teach the methods of making this tied straw hat.
With the volunteers in place where to begin? The stand used for Gorres de Cop and Cops Cap hats was known to the people of the town and the tools and templates survived. However, what straw had been used? After much experimentation, for a variety of reasons, wheat was discarded as was spelt and triticale. Rye straw was found to be long enough. The difficulty faced then and now is where to find the straw.
The Cops Cap hat style begins on this device. Notice how the hat starts with a hole through the center of the crown where it attaches to the tool. To make the hat takes piles of sulphur-bleached or otherwise dyed rye straw, tied together with waxed threads.
To tie the knots row after row in a straight line is quite difficult and is a standard of excellence in Gorres de Cop pieces. The completely hand made Gorres de Cop method is uniquely free form, as the straws are tied in the air .
Here is a very short video showing the knotting and tying of the hat:
Other hand tools have developed over the years to create patterns.
Since 2001, the “Asociación Artesania de les Gorres de Cop” has faithfully reproduced the hats. It should be noted however, the Cops Caps made today are primarily doll-sized hats as shown in the image below.
As previously mentioned, other tied straw items have been either reproduced or originally created by the volunteers. Below are examples of stunning variations to this Gorres De Cop tied straw method.
Since 2004, school children in Bellvei have had the opportunity to learn the town’s straw pride and they show visitors everything they have learned about it through school and local festivals.
At the end of 2006 to prevent the imminent extinction of the trade, the “Asociación Artesania de les Gorres de Cop” started to find other venues from which to promote their straw work. They began to participate in various craft exhibitions in the area.
The photo below is a wonderful representation of the Cops Cap styles made throughout the years. The color variation in the photograph shows the color variation that occurs due to organic changes in the sulphur-smoked bleached straws.