The designs of Doña Eva Martinez are mostly 18th and 19th century with some pre-hispanic symbolism, predominantly earrings. They are of pure silver and treated to give an antique finish. The designs are distinguished by the use of symbols such as flowers, birds, swans, monkeys and keys. Each design has its own history or meaning. Some are mounted with amber, obsidian, tourmaline, coral amethyst, garnet, quartz, etc. The wax replacement process is used to create the molds and 17 steps are involved in creating a finished product, including the formation of the mold, the wax tree, to the assembly to the various pieces.
I have gleaned much of my information from the January-February 2000 issue of ” Mexico en el Tiempo“, a historic and conservation magazine. This issue was devoted exclusively to jewelry of Mexico’s past and included a two page article on Doña Eva and her work. The other source was a surprisingly well done issue published in April of this year, promoting tourism and extolling places of interest and the culture of our small town of Tlaxco. There is also an exhibit of her work in the Museum of Art in our state Capitol.
Doña Eva is equally as interesting as her work. At 75 years of age she is a lovely lady, young in spirit and with an active mind . She is a private person. If you were to ask someone in Tlaxco about her you might get a response something like, “Yes, I’ve heard about a silver shop in Tlaxco but I don’t know anything about it.” I lived in Tlaxco for five years before I made her acquaintance and now we are good friends.
My first observance of her was a tall, slender woman with green eyes, dark hair mostly turned grey, gathered in back and falling to her shoulders in waves. She was dressed, as usual, in a skirt of earthtone colors extended below her knees and a shawl wrapped over her shoulders. I immediately thought of the Basques of northcentral Spain and of Southwestern France. Among the outstanding characteristics of the Basques are their independent spirit, love of freedom, and the respect for individual liberty. They are also industrious people and respect the home.
Some ten years ago Doña Eva designed and supervised the construction of her two storey home. It is made of adobe and inside painted white, with a mixture of lime and the juice of the nopal. (The nopal is the cactus-like plant with roundish flat appendages full of stickers). It must have been something she learned through her contact with, or reading about, the indigenous people of Mexico. The kitchen, dining room, and living room are open spaces. The living room has an ample sunken area with a fireplace. Its open beam ceiling is the full height of the two stories. Behind the balcony are bedrooms. The house is furnished with somewhat rustic or antique furniture and decorated with art, antiquities, and pre-Hispanic artefacts. Some of the paintings she has done herself.
Set back from the porch with its wood shingle roof, is the brick shop, about the size of a two car garage, where presently a mother, her son and daughter-in-law are helping helping and learning to work with silver. Production is limited, and I think that is what doña Eva prefers. She has her garden, fruit trees, the huge maguey plant, and her old dog to take care of, plus all of her other interests.
Doña Eva was born on April 6, l927 in Monterrey and lived in nearby Saltillo until she was 23 years old. Later she worked in Mexico City with some government agency, as a specialist in Traditional Mexican Art. Her job apparently took her into the remote areas of the country and put her in contact with various indigenous groups. In l977, at 50 years of age she learned about jewelry and silver work at the “Escuela de Artesanias de Bellas Artes”. When she finished her studies she was sent to Tlaxco to promote the art of making silver jewelry, and that was the seed from which her shop grew.