Apr 9, 2004, 4:37 PM
Post #3 of 8
In general terms, certain villages are known for certain crafts. A good guidebook would help you locate these villages. The Lonely Planet guidebook has 30 pages with info on handicrafts, with village names listed.
Re: [mazgordon] Authentic craft sources
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In Oaxaca, you could simply go to the tourist office or the hotel desk and ask which villages have markets on which days, and which villages are famous for what crafts. Plan to be there on the weekend, at least. You can educate yourself on quality and prices by visiting the shops in town before you go to the villages or the big market in town. I think of Oaxaca for textiles and for certain kinds of ceramics.
I have not seen that much of glass handicrafts in Mexico, and my Lonely Planet guide did not list a town to visit for this kind of craft.
I will list a few examples, pulled from memory and the Lonely Planet guidebook.
Mata Ortiz in Chihuahua is famous for ceramics, based loosely on the pots dug out of archeological sites near Paquime. We were just there in January, and people came out of the woodwork to invite us into their homes and show us their work as we walked down the streets. A google search on Mata Ortiz should let you see pictures of some of their work.
The city of Puebla in Puebla state is famous for wonderful talavera tile and ceramic pots. The quality and cost are higher than in Dolores Hidalgo. I recall shops there, rather than people selling out of their homes.
Santa Clara de Cobre, in Micheocan, is famous for copperwork, but I have not been there yet.
Taxco in Guerrero state is famous for silver jewelry, but I think that it has more tourist shops than people working out of their homes.
Many of these villages have "masters" of the art, whose work shows up in museums abroad, and the master's work has correspondingly high price tags. But the master's relatives and neighbors often produce similar work at a more reasonable price. It is your choice, and by walking around the village you can compare prices, designs, and quality, and probably get your picture taken with the artist if you desire.
If you see something that you like in a shop, ask where the work came from, the owner usually knows the name of the village and is willing to tell you.
It is fun to shop, it makes your travels have a focus and a purpose. In Mata Ortiz, I had a bit of a challenge tracking down the lady who made a pot that I liked, but it was interesting to look for her and eventually get my picture taken with her and the pot she made. Our friends, who don't get to Mexico that often, went a bit crazy buying, but they had planned to spend a fair amount of money. Obviously, it makes it a bit easier to speak Spanish, but they speak enough English to sell you something.
Leave room in your suitcase or trunk. Bring cash, the villagers will not take American Express or Visa, and the smaller towns will not have ATMs. Disposable diapers are a good way to pack ceramics or other fragile objects to keep them from breaking in transit. The shops and artists tend to wrap their wares in newspaper and tape, which is cheap for them, but not great protection against damage.