Spread the LOVE. . .

Spread the LOVE. . .
with gifts from the artisan's soul

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Meet San Miguel Master Tinsmith Cecilio Hernandez 'Chilo'

One of the first artisans whose work we began importing 4 years ago is master tinsmith Cecilio Hernandez (fondly known as 'Chilo' to locals, clients, friends, and family). Chilo owns a small tienda in San Miguel where anyone can visit and buy his lovely designs. We came across these designs on one of our first trips to San Miguel over 6 years ago and fell in love with them. His designs are so original, beautifully hand-crafted and exquisitely hand-painted. Chilo has a team of artisans and tinsmiths who work for him who are the best of the best in San Miguel. Chilo's attention to detail and meticulous nature is evident in his sought after work. Chilo is a local celebrity of sorts who is commissioned by many local homeowners (including many Americans) to design grand mirrors and decorative tin for their grande haciendas in San Miguel. Chilo was recently awarded the honor of the Best Tinsmith in the State of Guanajuato with an intricately hand-cut gold mirror which we were fortunate enough to see on our recent trip to his taller.

On our recent trip we were able to take our friends with us to tour his taller (workshop) and see how his one of a kind creations are made. We began at his tienda where a small fraction of his work available for sale, most of his designs are custom and require being special ordered. Above the tienda is where his extremely talented artisans who specialize in painting work. Jose being in charge of this portion of the business takes great pride in his and his fellow artisans' work. Jose is one of the only artisans who works for Chilo who speaks English so he led our group up the cramped stairway where larger than life examples of Chilo's fine design and craftmanship reside, including the now famous gold mirror that won him the award as Guanajuato's Best Tinsmith. As you reach the top Jose escorts us out onto the terrace where he explained the entire painting process to all of us in great detail. The process is very time consuming and labor intensive but once you see their finished piece there is no question that they produce a high quality product very worthy of the prices they charge. Actually after learning about all of the artistry that goes into every single painted piece everyone in the group had a greater appreciation for their 'artesania'.

After the painting taller we all were caravaned in 3 cars that took us to the main taller where they cut, craft, and weld the tin into the mirrors, headboards, and other decor. This taller is also Chilo's personal 'casa' and a museum of sorts. Every nook and cranny of his house is filled with his award-winning work. As soon as you drive into his carport/front door area you are greated by massive scale mirrors displayed on the stone of the exterior of his home, some mirrors are probably over 10 feet high and perhaps 6-8 feet wide. As you enter his home you find his love for his 'rosas' designs everywhere. His dining room wall is embellished with a 'Marco de Rosas' mirror probabaly 8 feet wide and then bookended by 2 large floor lamps all made from the 'rosas. His bedroom is the 'piece de resistance' with a magnificent natural colored (silver) headboard all hand cut in the most intricate design perched against a cobalt blue painted wall- it was jaw dropping!

After the home tour he escorted all of us upstairs to the taller where his tinsmiths and craftsmen work at oversized tables with sheets of tin penciling out designs that are to be cut and punched. Chilo took time to demonstrate how each one of the 'rosas' are made which he is currently so fond of. Chilo took a sheet of tin and hand drew with a sharpie the shape of petals then hand cut and did this 5-6 times and then punched through the center and utilized several metal tools to make just 1 rosa! Some of his 'Marco de rosas' mirrors contain hundreds so there is no surprise that these mirrors are expensive due to the intense hand-crafting each mirror takes. We were also treated to a demonstration of how they 'oxidize' the tin to make it look 'viejo' aged - they literally will dip the tin in a batch of 'acido' (acid) and keep it out in the sun to achieve this look.

After an amazing demonstration at the taller we headed back to the tienda where Chilo charmed everyone by signing each of the pieces they bought, and not with a black sharpie as I assumed he would - he literally hand-tooled a piece of tin for each person and wrote their name and did a unique design for each one with his own signature - quite a special treat. Now that's a great example of the Mexican artisan pride and hospitality we love so much!

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