Santa Clara del Cobre

Posted on August 03 2017

Santa Clara del Cobre

In the main square of this small town, sunlight reflects the rosy glint of copper from every corner, as shops display the brilliant workmanship of this ancient town’s artisans who have been here, practicing the same skill as their forefathers before them, for over 900 years now.
 Skills and knowledge being passed down the generations
Along every street, your ears gently ring with the sound of hammers rapidly and repeatedly raining down on the copper, beating and fashioning it into shape.  Peep through backyard doors and you will see multitudes of small furnaces, being kept alive, with hand bellows fanning the flames, as the copper is smelted down, ready to be created into something new.
This is the birthplace of our exquisite jugs, candlesticks and bowls.  Guillermo and Mario’s backyard is scattered with endless hand tools; outsized pliers, tweezers and picks and we can’t help feeling we have landed in a dentist’s surgery in Brobdingnag, the land of giants from Gulliver’s travels.

Where in some places children learn to draw or garden alongside their parents, here in Santa Clara del Cobre the children learn how to smelt, mould and create copper artefacts at their parents’ sides.  It is thought that 82% of the population of the town are still involved in copper production and they have been honing their skills since the 12th Century, when the Purepecha people, the most skilled metallurgists of their time, settled in this area.
By the 16th century, it was not the immediate availability of copper which made the town famous but a combination of its skilled artisans and the availability of fuel from surrounding forests, which was needed to supply the voracious appetites of the forges.  The copper itself, even then, was brought to the town from the mines some distance away and it is no different today, except that now it is recycled copper which arrives by the lorry load each week, 10,000 tonnes of it, in the shape of copper pipe off cuts, telephone wires and other scrap copper.

In a world of throw away, mass manufactured waste, time efficiency, production and economics are all too often, valued over and above permanence, quality, skill and beauty; the practices seen in Santa Clara del Cobre are truly heart warming to witness.  Lets hope that economics don’t in the end, sign the death warrant of these skilled artisans and their ancient traditions.
This is just the first of four different steps of the journey in creating our wonderful silverware.  Future blogs will discuss each of the next stages of their creation.

Please see our collection here