Spreading the Word
"when the going gets rough..."
Although the past five years have been economically difficult for most Mexicans, our artisans, artists and business people in general have managed to turn a tough situation into a creative money-making opportunity. Taking pride in their time-honored crafts, Mexico's traditional artisans are uniting to present their wares to the world community. In so doing, they are shaping new markets and grabbing international headlines with their proven products.
Américas Magazine, published by the Organization of American States, features an eight-page article on potters from Tonalá, Jalisco in their new August edition. Molding a Vital Identity, by Trudy Balch (with some fantastic photographs by our friend Michael Forbes, co-publisher of the weekly English newspaper The Guadalajara Colony Reporter), looks at how families are preserving traditional techniques while attempting to attract international markets.
Mundo Artesanal, published in Guadalajara, Jalisco by Soraya López and Pablo Koloffon, is a brand new bilingual publication dedicated to helping Mexican artisans sell their products to international buyers. The catalog lists addresses of many small and medium-sized studios based in the states of Jalisco and Michoacan, along with photos and descriptions of products offered.
The newest issue of Art & Antiques Magazine looks at possible legal problems one may face in attempting to export colonial folk art and antiques from Mexico. (Be sure to look for more on exporting our favorite items-- art, antiques and folk art from Mexico in issue eight of El antiQuario Magazine.) Their advice, "Buy from a reputable dealer. He may be deceived too, but he'll make good on it."
The July issue of National Geographic examines how a purple dye used for coloring traditional hand-made textiles from Oaxaca, Michoacan, Colima and Jalisco is achieved from a rare sea mollusk.
The cause of this recent flurry of articles and publications on Mexican hand crafts and folk art is due, in part, to the fact that traditional artisans are joining forces to create positive ways to improve the professional climate in this country. Artisans have traditionally been considered members of Mexico's lower class. Often being from rural areas with little or no access to broader markets and lacking in formal education, many of these creative craftsmen are taking matters into their own hands to improve their situation.
A group of Jalisco craftsmen decided that the best way to change things would to be by working as a team. In 1996, they held the first annual artisans expo in Guadalajara, Jalisco-- TlaquepArte (See page 47 for more on this event). Now in its third year, this show draws in buyers from all corners of the world. The event has also inspired the creation of several similar trade show in Guadalajara and other parts of Mexico dedicated to the display and sale of popular arts.
Last November the Tonala Trade Center opened its doors as a wholesale display showroom for forty area artisans. The Center's goal is to assemble a variety of folk art and handcrafted items from small area studios into one building, with the intent of attracting international buyers. With backing from the local Chamber of Commerce and other groups, results have been positive to date.
The government foreign trade bank, Bancomext, is doing its part as well to aid family-based artisans. The company provides export-loan programs to businesses wishing to increase international sales and offers support to numerous national events dedicated to promoting Mexican handcrafts and artisans. Among some shows they have helped organize in recent months include the International Jewerly, Silverware and Watchmaking Trade Show and the International Home Furnishings Market.
Our hats off to all who have decided to become captains of their own destiny by taking calculated risks to improve not only their financial situations but their business reputations and international perceptions of Mexico's traditional arts.