Friday, July 6, 2007


Shoppers at crafts fair find great bargains on pottery, copper and textiles
Ran May 13, 2006 in The Monitor.
Monitor Staff Writer
URUAPAN , Mch., Mex. — Katie Cowger and her boyfriend had just picked out some black pottery made in Tzintzuntzan.

“We’re just trying to find some stuff for my apartment,” said Cowger, 18, of Ashland, Oregon, who had been studying Spanish in Guanajuato for about 2 ½ months.

Cowger and her boyfriend, Guanajuato lawyer Carlos Torres, 24, were just two of the many people looking for bargains at the crafts fair in Plaza Morelos in Uruapan . The fair, larger than the similar one in Patzcuaro in late October and November, featured scores of artisans and their wares from across the state of Michoacán.

Customers browsed through stalls of copper and silver bracelets, pots, bowls and cups. A zoo of shiny copper elephants and horses paraded across a table while a single rank of disgruntled copper owls looked on. A woman with stern lines across her face and heavy earrings dangling near her cheeks waited passively for the next customer.

There were white cotton blouses and tunics with orange punto de cruz (needlepoint) stitching across the top from Tocuaro, guitars from Paracho and masks with twisted horns from Ocumicho. In the section set aside for artisans from Patamban, Elodia Bernave, 40, negotiated a sale with Laura Rodriguez, 60, and her daughter, Laura de la Vega, 37.

“In spite of it being very traditional, it has many modern forms,” De la Vega said.

Her mother said this was by far the best crafts fair in Michoacán. “We have all the regions, all the artesanos,” Rodriguez said. “I like the clay, the weaving, the embroidery. I like the figures from Ocumicho. It’s very traditional.”

The Patamban pottery, indeed, has a traditional terracotta look about it, with bands of blue and white flowers that seem to float around the hips of some jars; others have abstract blue and white shapes that shimmer in the shade of mid-afternoon. Bernave was selling glazed serving bowls, large mouth bowls, and pots and pitchers she’d spent the whole year making. She said she typically begins working at about noon and continues until 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. She was charging between $1 and $4 for her wares but said the weeklong event was definitely worth the effort.

Cowger and Torres had only been at the fair for about 15 minutes when they found the black pitcher and four mugs, all for only $9.

“So far it’s really pretty good,” Cowger said.

“This is like ancient crafts made in the state of Oaxaca,” Torres said, before the artisan cut in and said, firmly, “Tzintzuntzan.”

Joan Kaulbach, originally of Canada, liked the distinctive “pineapple” pottery from San Jose de Gracia, with its glistening bursts of leaves, buttons, flowers and tiny cups. She and her husband, Harry, hadn’t purchased anything yet. They wanted to wait until they had made a tour of the whole fair.

They previously lived in Queretaro for 3 ½ years before recently moving to Uruapan , where it’s a little warmer.

“It feels better here,” said Joan Kaulbach, 71.

“As far as we have traveled in Mexico,” added her husband, “this area is very green, very tropical, lots of mountains and extinct volcanoes.”

“There’s lots more crafts,” Joan Kaulbach continued. “Our friends like it. I have a son who lives in Europe. We give it to him and he gives it to his friends. They like the mariachi figurines made of pottery.”

Jan Honeycutt, a friend of the Kaulbachs, was impressed by the resourcefulness of some artisans she had seen painting with brushes they had made of cat hair.

“He was doing very fine line work,” said Honeycutt. 63. “I love it, the industriousness of the people. It’s wonderful to see, always amazing, the artistic ability.”

She and her husband, Pat, moved to Mexico last August from Albuquerque, N.M. Before that, they lived in Teague, between Houston and Dallas.

“We just vacationed in Mexico several times,” she said. “We liked the people, liked the culture, so when my husband retired, this is where we wanted to be. I think there’s so much here. … We have bought all that store stuff. We appreciate having something that someone has made.”

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