Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lovely Jewels

I don't think I've met a woman who doesn't like jewelry. She might be picky and insist on only wearing real gold, or on the other end of the spectrum be a hippie type who collects shiny baubles from all over the world. But no matter her fashion style and pocket book, she will almost always take a look at an earring stand. Everyone knows that most Mexican silver is of high quality and is made in Taxco. I said most. But there are a few other places where quality jewelry is made in Mexico, and one of them is Michoacán. They don't make silver bangles or turquoise rings there, but if you're looking for delicate silver necklaces and earrings with fish--you need look no further. Michoacán means "the land of the fishermen" so fish are an important theme in the region's traditional artesania. There are a couple of families who dedicate themselves to making beautiful traditional jewelry, including the silver and gold earrings often worn by Purepecha women like the one below.
Artesana of Cocucho, Michoacán

Girls in Ocumicho, Michoacán
 If you spend any time in Michoacán (and are paying attention) you will notice that all the women and girls wear silver or gold earrings in the shape of a half moon. I bought my first pair in 2003, but it took me a few years to finally meet the family in Cheran who makes them. Cheran is an interesting town with a lot of history, and in the past decade has become known for its indigenous activism and self-defense forces. It was an adventure trying to find them, but eventually we located their house and made our purchase from Rigoberto and his charming mother, la señora Benedicta. The following year we made an appointment for them to deliver some earrings to us in Patzcuaro and the whole family arrived at the house we were renting. They are such a lovely family and they do beautiful work. But doing business regularly, especially during the months we weren't in Mexico, was problematic. Even trying to inquire about the current prices of various earring sizes-- with the fluctuation of silver and gold in the world market prices were always changing-- that was always difficult for us. Making a purchase and arranging delivery was definitely a challenge.
Edith & Cesar of Kutzi Joyeros

Then by accident (and some very good luck) in 2013 our new friend, Joanna, introduced us to Edith and Cesar aka Kutzi Joyeros. After seeing the beautiful silver earrings she had just bought from them, I was excited to make an appointment to visit the Kutzi workshop in Patzcuaro. Doug and I immediately hit it off with the couple, and I found several styles of earrings I was sure my customers would appreciate. In addition, we could place future wholesale orders via Facebook and they would send packages to the U.S. We can do business! Last year (the summer of 2014) was even better. I messaged that I'd like to bring down some old jewelry that I received from my mother-in-law and my own mother who had passed away the previous year. I asked if they could remake some of mom's earrings for pierced ears so either I or my daughters could wear them, and to also use the gold from a necklace to make into a pair of gold filigree earrings I could have for my daughter Jenny's wedding. They were happy to help with the re-purposing of our family heirlooms, and also made beautiful new silver half moon shaped arracadas or hoops for me to sell to Mexico By Hand customers. When Edith and Cesar delivered the order, we passed several wonderful hours with them chatting about art and politics as we drank quite a bit of mezcal. Now this is the way to do business!

Kutzi's silver earrings can be purchased online from Mexico By Hand at www.mexicobyhand.com
Many thanks to Florence Leyret Jeune for the use of her photo of Edith and Cesar. You can see more of her beautiful photographs at:  www.artisanos-de-michoacan.tumblr.com