Most foreigners who begin creating in Mexico usually take on a Mexican tradition and add their own flavor to it, but Blondin’s work is a bit more complicated than that. There are North and South elements in her work, but they have more to do with the materials she works with and the people she interacts with.
Most artisans in Mexico live and work where there were born. There are interesting exceptions, such as Gabriela Diaz and Oscar Becerra who have lived, created and taught abroad.
Far less common, but just as interesting, are those foreigners who develop a passion for a particular handcraft here, such as the work of Argentinian Susana Buyo, who developed her style of alebrijes in Mexico City but now lives and teaches in Mazatlan.
Marcia Blondin is another example. 66 years young, she is a Canadian who has lived in Puerto Vallarta since 1991.
Blondin’s work is to make recycled jewelry, something that began very simply and very organically 6 years ago. She has no background in anything artistic or creative but her life along the Pacific coast brought her in contact with interesting bits of stuff that would wash up on the beach. Like many people, she picked up things that caught her eye to use in simple mosaics and necklaces. She considers her first works purely as learning experiences.
Hating waste and liking the challenges that recycling gives, she widened her “sources of supply”. As many foreign retirees live in this area, many have old and broken jewelry, silk scarves and blouses and other heirlooms that are unusable in their original state, but can’t be simply thrown away. The idea is to take these pieces and rework them somehow so that they can be worn or otherwise used again.
She primarily uses vintage silk for collar necklaces, one of her best sellers, using old scarves, blouses and men’s ties. Most have been either worn to the point that they have been overmended, or they belong to a mom or dad who recently died. Blondin believes these pieces have a “soul” that no new material can match.
Trips home mean visits to thrift stores (not a thing in Mexico generally) and access to more jewelry, beads and baubles to spark her imagination.
The mix of sources means that her work can either be creating something where the client provides most (or the most important) of the raw materials, or creating pieces for sale to a more general market. Either way, the use of recycled materials means that now two pieces are exactly alike. However, there are certain styles of products.
“Mixtos” are pieces, usually earrings that are a mix of materials, old and new. The base are recycled items, which generally include something from her own past,in particular a bead from a necklace her father gave her mother in the 1950s. With earrings’ weight is an issue. Blondin says these earrings are meant to be worn “for a good time, not for a long time.” The weight is an issue even though the mix often include usually-shunned plastic bases to keep the weight down.
Blondin has literally sold pieces that she was wearing while walking down the street. However, most of her sales to the public occur in the Puerto Vallarta area at the Marsol Friday Market by the pier and the Three Hans & a Rooster Market on Saturdays. She also has a few pieces on consignment but generally avoids this sales method. Most sales are to tourists and foreigners, making the business relatively seasonal.
The work is as much for her own pleasure as it is for making any money. While Blondin admits she should create an online presence, she does not feel any overwhelming pressure to do it soon. She is concerned that such work would take away from the face-to-face sales she enjoys.