Banding together at the Red House

It’s no secret that artisans and artists struggle to make a living from their work. Necessity, being the mother of invention, prompted some to come up with creative ideas for marketing.

The Casa Roja (Red House) is a cooperative located in the Centro Historico of Chilpancingo, the capital the state of Guerrero (better known for Acapulco and Taxco). That it is a cooperative is not what is most interesting; many artisans and artists have discovered the benefits of coming together to share marketing and promotional duties. But Casa Roja has taken the concept to another level.

Scences of the shop and one of the workshops at Casa Roja

First of all, it is a cooperative of young people dedicated to different creative activities from traditional handcrafts of the state, modern ones as well as fine art. These creators have banded together along with a coffee shop cooperative to taked over a house (which is red of course) to not only sell coffee, art and handcrafts … the upper floor of house is dedicated workshop space, giving classes in leather, embroidery, other textile crafts, jewelry making, filigree, painting, photography, and even music.

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All of the participants are from Guerrero state and most are from the Chilpancingo area. Each artist/artisan has dediced space for their wares in the former living room of the house, which functions as a reception area/store/place to drink coffee.

One important thing about this handcrafts store is that all pieces are labeled with the information about the artisan. This almost never happens with handcrafts sold in private  or government stores and galleries, cheating artisans the opportunity to become known for their work.

Casa Roja opened its doors only four months ago. It is the joining of two cooperatives, one of artists and artisans who were looking to find an economical means to rent a storefront in Chilpancingo, along with the cooperative that runs the coffee shop end of things. By the way, the coffee cooperative makes one of the best café de olla I have ever had, not too sweet allowing the flavor of the coffee and spices to come through. The artists and artisans come from different backgrounds. Some studied art but most come from areas completely unrelated to what they do now.

There are 15 members now working in different capacities in the organization. The house serves mostly as a gathering place and directly generates the most revenue through classes, coffee and special events. Most sales still occur off-site, but the grouping has allowed for more invitations to more events at further distances from Chilpancingo than before.

Left: hoop work by Narval Violeta Right: Sign on textile and jewelry workshop

The entire arrangement is well thought out and well-executed. The only drawback to the location is that it is not accessible to the casual visitor to Chilpancingo, but the city is not really a tourist attraction. The classes and cultural event do serve to engage the local community. However, the success of Casa Roja is not assured. When asked what the future plans of the Casa were, the immediate response was “pay the rent.”

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Artwork by R Froster consisting of needlework by Casa Roja members

What is most impressive about Casa Roja is that this is an effort by creators, for creators, relying on zero help from government agencies (and the strings that often come attached with such). It is also doing what it is doing in a very tough market. I see no reason why a similar organization would not have success in a larger city, especially ones with areas known for cultural activities.

Casa Roja is located a Altamirano 34, in downtown Chilpancingo. It has a Facebook page here.

Featured image is a filigree and drawing by Ariday

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