From the category archives:

Peru’s artisan traditions

Peruvian Jewelry Joins Tradition and Style

by admin on April 6, 2010

When looking at Peruvian jewelry in the marketplace, it is clear that age old traditions are still celebrated with modern day crafts. The Mate jewelry, made with carved gourd, represents a special Peruvian craft that is passed down from generation to generation. The Huayruro seed jewelry, like this Huayruro Seed Necklace, stems from the long standing tradition of carrying Huayruro seeds for good luck. Some Peruvian necklaces and earrings are made with pieces of intricate woven tapestries which are placed behind glass. These pieces have that a connection to the ancient weavings that started thousands of years ago in Peru.

Chulucanas Pottery

by admin on November 9, 2008

Pottery from Chulucanas

Pottery from Chulucanas

On a recent visit to Peru, Meg and I traveled the dirt roads in the Piura region of Peru in the north, in a rented taxi in search of handcrafted pottery.  We arrived after a long rainy season that had washed out several important bridges but we were intent on exploring the town of Chulucanas, famous for its pottery. The techniques used to create these stunning pieces of pottery dates back to pre-Inca times and most of the pottery follows monochromatic colors with many of the geometric designs part of ancient symbols.  After a bumpy, dusty ride we found ourselves walking up and down a well trodden residential area where artisans displayed their work in the front “living” rooms of their homes.  The home made kilns were fired up in their backyards and the smell of burning mango leaves was in the air.  This earthenware is made from clay found in Chulucanas. The Vicus culture existed in northern Peru for more than a thousand years and the techniques used to create the pottery remain a tradition. Using only their hands, feets, stone and simple wood tools, artisans fashion beautiful pottery, baked in the old way in wood ovens. The urns, vases and other handcrafted vessels were remarkable and we spent several hours walking from home to home, accompanied by the increasingly large group of children who found our visit fascinating.  I found an artisan who had moved beyond the striking black and white geometrics that are common to Chulucanas; she was removing layers of mango leaves at different intervals in the firing process to come up with a striking series of browns in her designs.  I wrapped them up and took them home, where they are a lovely addition to the decor of my living room.

Peruvian artisans pride themselves on traditional craftsmanship techniques that date back to the pre-Hispanic period, drawing from their roots in Andean civilizations. As far back as the 9th Century BC, Peruvian artisans were creating handcrafted jewelry that was both deeply religious and symbolic in nature. The artisans worked with silver, gold, and ceramics to create a variety of artisan crafts, incorporating sophisticated geometric patterns in a practice that can still be seen in modern Peruvian artisan crafts today.

The utilitarian and decorative nature of Peruvian artisan pottery is most widely known for the fine tones achieved by potters through their use of the color black in burnishing their ceramics, and for their method of cutting off oxygen flow to the oven to achieve the desired effect. Also characteristic to Peruvian artisan crafts are the incorporation of characters such as musicians, vendors, dancers, and animals that seem to come to life in the hand-worked clay.

Peruvian textiles were traditionally used as sacred fabrics to honor deities and were used in ancient rituals. The textile creation process is very labor-intensive and requires extraordinary skill. A single finished piece may be made from 6 to 9 miles of different colored thread. The artisans created many small variations, incorporating both geometric patterns and fluid details, ensuring that no two pieces are alike.

Each gem, stone or seed in a piece of Peruvian artisan handcrafted jewelry has a symbolic significance born of the pre-Hispanic Peruvian culture, designed with the nature of the materials in mind, so that each piece of silver handcrafted jewelry is unique.