Sunday, July 8, 2007


Mexican artisans compete with dazzling craftsmanship
Story ran May 13, 2006

Monitor Staff Writer

URUAPAN , Mch., Mex. — Luis Felipe Punzo Chavez worked for two months on his decorative copper pot, and his work paid off at a crafts competition.

The 15-year-old coppersmith took first place in his category in the 46th Annual Domingo de Ramos Concurso y Tianguis Artesania in Uruapan , organized by the Casa de las Artesanías, a state agency based in Morelia. The contest in the second largest city in the Mexican state of Michoacán (the biggest is Morelia, the state capital), took place April 9 at the San Pedro Textile Factory where more than 1,000 artisans presented their crafts for the annual competition.

An especially intriguing category in the contest — feather art — showed a great deal of refined technique and talent in which artisans used bird feathers to create beautiful images. One piece depicted a monarch butterfly; the delicate feathery filaments used to create the butterfly’s wings accentuated the poetic power of the monarch.

More of these unusual crafts sat on the floor against a solid wooden beam, portraying such various subjects as the Virgen de la Luz, owls and a horse trotting across a meadow beneath swirling clouds. These pieces were priced in the hundreds of dollars.

Visitors didn’t need much knowledge to appreciate the work that had gone into the pieces set up around the room.

Sondra Zell stopped to admire some prize-winning copper pieces that ranged from under $80 to more than $130; “I love it,” said Zell, originally of New York City. She now calls San Miguel de Allende, Mex., home and would only describe her age as “over 60.”

“I’ve been here several days,” Zell said. “I was looking forward to this aspect of it so I could see the top quality.”

“It’s been lovely,” said her friend, Clare Piaget, 60. ”It’s quite an eye opener to see the event.”

Piaget, who spends half the year in New York City and the other half in San Miguel De Allende, admired one of the prize-winning copper pots.

“It’s in a clay shape, for a clay pot, but they made it in copper,” she said.

“I think that’s true of this bowl, too,” added Zell, closely inspecting another piece.

She bent down to examine a curious mound of thatched leaves and commented, “I don’t suppose you know why this got a prize. I don’t know what it is.”

“I think it’s a costume,” answered Piaget.

The “costume”, explained another visitor a few minutes later, was actually a raincoat. Von Peacock, originally of Indiana, now lives in Colima City, Mex. The 70-year-old has been in Mexico for 48 years. He lifted the thatched leaf item to reveal very fine stitch work underneath.

Peacock comes to the Domingo de Ramos event every year.

“I think it’s a good incentive for the artisans in the villages,” he said. “It’s a chance to compare their work with others and a chance to see what they have to do to refine it.”

Pieces were judged April 8 at the factory, and winners were awarded in a ceremony the following day at the Huatapera where they shook hands with Michoacán Governor Lazaro Cardenas Batel.

Chavez, the son of awardwinning coppersmith Abdon Punzo Angel, put his award winning “cazo” or pot, up for sale for $300 in a stall at the crafts fair, along with numerous other copper pieces. The piece, which had already brought him first prize winnings of $320, had a continuous line of leaves overlapping each other across the rim, the delicate lines of the ribs and veins revealing the tedious hours of work Chavez put into the project.

“I feel very proud, since my father taught me the technique of copper work so I could obtain the prize,” said Luis Felipe Punzo Chavez. “He’s very proud of me.”

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