The artisans of Tecalpulco, Mexico have long been known for their silver and stone jewelry. Art Camp, short for Artesanas Campesinas (or rural female artisans), is a women-owned cooperative that continues this tradition. The group constantly introduces new methods, materials, and machinery to compete in the highly competitive jewelry market, even surviving a collapse in the marketability of their pieces in the 1990’s after jewelry from other countries flooded the US market. The artisans have become business women, understanding the importance of customer service, quality, and design. Their product range includes semi-precious stones, resins, and even tiny flowers captured in resin. Each piece is accentuated by alloys or precious metals, and represents the tradition of fine Mexican jewelry.
Alpaca "silver" actually is a high-grade pewter alloy with the beauty of sterling silver, without the tarnish. The artisanas carve molds out of rubber and fill with the hot liquid metal for the base of the majority of their pieces. When the round rubber molds are retired, they're often used as floor mats.
The Art Camp pieces make up Gifts With Humanity's Artisana brand. We want to introduce you to a few of the women who make the pieces we carry.
Berta Dominguez and her husband have two children. Her husband was in a bad accident and is now wheelchair bound so it is up to Berta to provide for the family. Both her parents were jewelry artisans, so she learned her craft from them when she was young. She loves to take care of her daughters and help them at school, and working from home allows her the flexibility to take care of her family and still make a living. Berta makes the earrings that are the most popular design in the Artisana brand as well as the mosaic bracelets.
Maria Veronica and her husband work together crafting jewelry. They have one daughter and had another on the way when we met. Her husband taught her how to make jewelry when they married seven years ago. Maria is able to help provide for her family in ways she wouldn’t be able to without Art Camp. Maria and her husband share responsibilities taking care of their children and their animals, but Maria also does the cooking, cleaning and shopping when she’s not making jewelry. Working from home allows her to set her own schedule and set her own priorities. Maria and her husband make the mosaic products including the long-teardrop earrings.
Marcelina Dominguez and her husband have three children. She loves to harvest her garden. Marcelina learned her craft from her parents and has been making jewelry for about 14 years. Her mother also worked with Artisanas Campesinas before she retired. She started at first just finishing small pieces, but now she is involved in every step of the process, from grinding down the inlay material to setting the pieces to finishing them with polish. She splits her time working and taking care of her children. Making jewelry gives Marcelina and her family more flexibility and allows her more time with her children.
Many other women in the community work from their homes, most using car or solar batteries to power the equipment they purchased.