In the framework of the project “Ancient crafts – from traditions to present” our artisans visit Mexico
Posted in Noderīgi un Jaunumi

On February of this year, in the framework of the project “Ancient crafts – from traditions to present” artisans from Garkalne and Ropaži regions and artisans from Tukums and Engure regions visited Mexico to learn from artisans from another continent. On this experience exchange trip project participants visited artisan businesses, participated in various masterclasses in two regions – Mexico City and Chiapas, as well as took part in two fairs and introduced Mexican people with their crafts.

From Latvia to Mexico went a group of 7 people. From association “Ropažu Garkalnes partnerība” (“Ropaži Garkalne Partnership”) in the experience exchange participated project manager Eva Haberkorne-Vimba, candle maker Terēza Luksa-Sigate from company TLCandles and ceramicist and creative personality Ieva Meijere from the guest house “Sauleskalns”.

The experience exchange trip started in Tulancingo city in the Mexican state of Hidalgo, where artisans from “Partnerība laukiem un jūrai” (“Partnership for Fields and Sea”) and association “Ropažu Garkalnes partnerība” (“Ropaži Garkalne Partnership”) visited an artisan dynasty, that for many generations has been making pottery household items and a local business that produces clay roofing tiles, doing it all by hand. The first of the two fairs took place in this city, where our artisans also participated in the formal opening of the fair together with the municipal representatives of Tulancingo. In the fair Latvian stand was the most visited. Our artisans’ crafts as well as their high quality was highly appreciated.

In San Cristobal de la Casas, located in Mexican state of Chiapas artisans participated in a lacquerware masterclass where they lacquered and painted little wooden boxes using ancient techniques and oil derived from crashed insects. There they also attended Centro de Textiles del Mundo Maya, a museum where there are exhibited more than 2500 Mayan textiles and clothing, both casual wear and pieces that were worn for different ceremonies and Mexican people keep these dressmaking and embroidery traditions alive still today. What is surprising is that a culture on a different continent and ornaments used in fabrics, clothing and daily life are so very similar to Latvian ornaments and signs we use in our daily lives and culture.

Chiapas region is known not only for its nature’s splendor and richness, but also for its amber. What sets it apart from amber from Baltic region is that it can be completely white, green or red in color, not just in different shades of yellow. In San Cristobal de la Casas there even is an amber museum, where our artisans learned how in Mexico amber is used in crafts, art and jewelry making, and were happy to learn that Baltic amber is well known in Mexico, and that its mineral properties are highly valued.

One of the most inspiring Mexican artisans, met on this trip, was a woman named Juanita in full name – Juana Gomez Ramirez who creates various handmade ceramic statues, but her signature creation, that she is known for, is jaguar figures. She learned the craft from her friend when she was a little girl and she took over making jaguars after her friend passed away. Over time she has taught pottery making to her family and people in her village. Today her whole family and many people from her village work in her workshop “Taller y Galeria Artesenal”. Juana Gomez Ramirez is famous in Mexico and all-over Latin America and many of her works can be found in well-known art galleries in Europe. Juana also taught a master class to our artisans, teaching them how to make clay pigeons. But what made the most impact, while visiting Juanita, was her modesty, sincerity and genuine joy with which she worked as well as her responsibility for her work and the high quality of it.

In conclusion – experience exchange trips have an important role in the business owner’s and artisans’ work development. Experience exchange gives inspiration for further work, validates the importance of craft and also appreciates the high quality of the artisans’ works outside Latvia. It gives new knowledge, opportunities to learn about new materials and new work techniques as well as gain new contacts and connections that help find new markets for artisans’ works. Undeniably, experience exchange trips also help Latvian artisans to get to know each other better and create space for collaborations and as a result creating new products and services, that not only enriches, but also expands offerings of the local market for locals as well as tourists visiting artisan businesses.

Association “Ropažu Garkalnes partnerība” together with association “Partnerība laukiem un jūrai” has been implementing the collaborative project since the beginning of 2019. And since then artisans have gone on various experience exchange trips to Northern Ireland, Mexico, Finland and traveled around Latvia and have participated in fairs in Europe and outside it. The goal of this project is to strengthen and popularize craft industry, to facilitate networking between partner countries, to share examples of good practice and to promote entrepreneurial abilities for local artisans, to develop new products and services and also to expand scope  of possible cooperation partners and/or competitors, and realization opportunities.

Thanks to everyone involved in the project and to further cooperation!

Terēza Luksa-Sigate

Eva Haberkorne-Vimba

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