I like to visit artisans wherever I go, whether it's Mexico City, a small pueblito or a medium sized town. It's always so rewarding to learn more about the process of making their art and to see where the magic happens. On this trip, like so many in the past few years, artisans are saying that the work is "muy bajo" (very low) because tourists are afraid to visit. Particularly in Patzcuaro, Michoacán, I was struck by how many shops have closed around the main plaza because of the lack of tourism. Every artisan I visited said that very few people have been visiting and sadly, that directly affects their income and their ability to continue the artistic traditions of their families.
Even in Capula, where there was a Concurso (Competition) sponsored by the Casa de Artesanias in Morelia during the last week, several ceramic artists told me that none of the usual visitors and buyers had come this year and they were left with lots of merchandise. It's sad to see. One person said that a frequent buyer from Guadalajara called to say he was not coming because of warnings from his embassy.
One small buyer like me can't make much of a dent in the economy of Mexico, but I'm trying hard! I always feel best when I buy directly from artisans because that is the fairest of fair trade--buying what they've made at a price they set. Those purchases for the Zinnia Folk Arts shop don't affect a lot of people but they can significantly affect a few families. I always try to add at least one new artisan to my list in each area I visit in addition to supporting some of the previously visited artisans I think are exceptional.
Here are a smattering of photos taken inside artisan workshops over the last 10 days. They live very modestly usually with their workshop inside the home.