For over 1.5 years now, we have had the honor of working with Mexican artisans and others with the aim of getting more and better information freely available in English about the best of Mexican handcrafts. And we have been able to do quite a bit with the limited, personal resources we have.
“We” are husband and wife team Alejandro Linares Garcia, a photographer and graphic designer and Leigh Thelmadatter, a writer and English teacher. When we began in the fall of 2015, we thought of this as a hobby, and considered ourselves fortunate to be able to self-fund our visits to artisans, their communities and some of the handcraft events that occur in Mexico.
The most important thing we have discovered is that the world of Mexican handcrafts and folk art is like the famed Russian matroyshka dolls… but with an infinite number of layers! Especially since we do not limit our efforts to those artisans who have already gained recognition in their fields but also those who do exceptional work but have not received the attention they deserve.
This leads us the two devils that always complicate this kind of work… time and money. Interviewing, writing and photography tasks take up most of our weekends, but this is not really a problem as it’s a lot better than watching television or being on Facebook. We have also been blessed with some contributions from other writers such as Norma Schafer of the Oaxaca Cultural Navigator and Leslie Rutlege of Puerta Vallarta who have shared their posts here and even written specifically for this venue. We have also received support from the Vallarta Tribune, which republishes selected articles in their newspaper, getting the word out about Mexican artisans.
We live in Mexico City and while there are many more artisans here than one might expect, most artisans do live in rural villages, often very difficult to get to. We have stories of combining GPS with “human GPS” to find houses and literally getting out of the car to inspect the road to see if there was enough space to pass. This is all part of the adventure.
We have also been fortunate to see our readership slowly but steadily rise, from about 25 or so per week to between 250 to 500 per week, depending on how popular the articles are. Over half of our readership is in Mexico and about 75% claim English as a native language. One of our goals is to reach expat communities in Mexico who want to know more about where they live, but for one reason or another, are unable to do that in Spanish. One thing that suprises us is that the most viewed articles are still the basics … those about particular types of work and where to travel to find handcrafts. The record holder is the article on huipils, which has to date over 3,000 views
There is one change now to the blog… a donation button or tip jar. The purpose of the this is the hope that we can defray some of the costs associated with gathering information and photographs.
The purpose of this blog was never commercial. We considered advertising, but decided against it. Of course, artisans never have nor ever will be asked for any sort of compensation, that they are willing to share their time and expertise is more than enough!
One reason is that both of us have years working with open information/open source movements (like Wikipedia), and more importantly, the goal is to present information about artisans to encourage people to visit them and buy directly whenever they can. This is better for both artisan and buyer. For those who are not able to do this, the benefit is to know what you are buying and what questions to ask. We are not vendors, rather organizations such as Los Amigos de Arte Popular, Feria Maestros de Arte and Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art are our role models.
If you have enjoyed our articles, please consider sending a donation to help support the work and get more information up online!