‘Extremerinas’ is a project started in 2014 by the Danish designer Charlotte Houman, based in Extremadura, and Concha Salguero, project coordinator with the Association for Transhumance (seasonal migration of livestock) and Nature, from their shared passion of working with the superb merino wool from the flocks of Merino sheep found in the dehesa, the extensive pasture areas of Extremadura. Joining them in this project, the sheep breeder Cabello-Bravo (Siruela) made available the first batch of the white and the black wool.
Sheep breeder: Cabello-Bravo. Photography: Gema Arrugaeta.
Charlotte Houman. Photography: Gema Arrugaeta.
Charlotte has created a high quality interior design product, functional and practical (sofa blankets), with the unique method of being woven using the Jaquard technique, which allows for a double-sided design, experimenting with the natural colours of the wool, the natural white from the white Merino, and the dark brown of the rare and endangered black Merino.
The manufacture of the blankets, from the washing of the wool to the finished product, takes place in Spain, combining the artesan method of washing and fulling with the modern technique of a digital Jaquard loom, essential criterias for the designer.
The Merino wool has a unique quality: it is thermoregulating, insulating, repels water; it is soft, durable, natural, light-weight, breathable and is suitable for babies and people who are allergic to chemical substances.
Photography: Gema Arrugaeta.
Miguel Cabello. Photography: Gema Arrugaeta.
The flocks of Merino sheep of Extremadura
The flocks of Merino sheep of Extremadura are raised in their natural environment, the open countryside, grazing freely in ideal conditions for animal welfare, providing benefits that affect the health of the flock and the ecosystems.
This extensive and sustainable grazing helps to combat climate change: the soil absorbs carbon, prevents fires, maintains healthy soil, combats erosion, improves the water cycle and reduces the consumption of industrial feeds that are the cause of many greenhouse gas emissions. It is thus a tool of ‘ancestral cutting edge technology’ and the migrating sheep are spreaders of biodiversity for genetic dispersion: each one can transport in its wool, hooves and droppings an average of some 4500 seeds a day!
The flocks, as well as encouraging unique landscapes of exceptional beauty, create the habitats where endangered species live, and without grazing, these habitats and species would disappear. In this way, the sheep maintain day-to-day Ecosystems of High Natural Value recognized and protected by the European Network Natura 2000, which protects unique species and habitats on our planet.
Sheep breeder Cabello-Bravo. Photography: Gema Arrugaeta.
Together with nature, the grazing has shaped an age-old culture of folklore, popular architecture, gastronomy and history. These sheep are the heirs of those transhumant flocks which in the Middle Ages made Spain the leading power in the world for wool, and Extremadura a strategic enclave for the action of the powerful Mesta, the first national guild in the history of Spain.
Today, the extensive herds of Merino sheep form a natural driving force of a new, thriving economy, that demands an agricultural environment which produces healthy food in healthy ecosystems, and many other benefits to society, and where the biodiversity will be key to profitability. This grazing has enormous potential for boosting rural economies. And in this new order, the Extremaduran sheep are at the forefront of this rural success story.
Concha, Charlotte & Miguel