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The Art of Craft
Monday, 28 November 2016 12:00:00 PM Australia/Sydney
Did you know that it takes a master silversmith – even one with 68 years of experience – a full three days of detailed, skilled labour to produce a necklace as showstopping and intricate as our Abanico Necklace?
Meet the Silversmith Master
The master in question is 84-year-old Señor Melesio Rodriguez, who has been working from the same small silversmith workshop in Taxco, Mexico every day for the past 40 years.
NAJO founder Jo Tory sat down with Señor Melesio during her visit to his workshop earlier this year, to better understand how much Taxco and the silver industry has changed in his lifetime. Watch the interview here.
“I left school in my third year of primary at the age of eight to look after goats,” remembers Señor Melesio. But then in 1948, at the age of 16, he was given the chance to learn the silversmith trade at one of the “grand workshops” in town, Margot’s.
The Grand Silver Workshops of Taxco
Margot van Voorhies Carr was a very important figure in the history of Mexican silver design, and her workshop back in its heyday had more than 280 working silversmiths. Other grand workshops of the time were Los Castillo, Taller de las Delicias (established by William Spratling, widely regarded as the father of Mexican silver) and Antonio Pineda. Together, these workshops employed thousands of silversmiths in the town of Taxco.
Margot van Voorhies Carr Drawings
In was in this bustling, competitive environment that Señor Melesio grew up and developed his craft. But towards the end of his 28 years at Margot’s, he began to see silversmiths break away from these grand workshops and establish their own independent outlets in their homes. “A lot of kids learned how to make silver jewellery,” he recalls. “Consequently, there was not the same control over quality.”
The early 1970s saw the decline of the grand workshops, along with many other changes to the vibrant industry town. It was around this time that Señor Melesio moved to the workshop where he remains today.
Ever humble, Señor Melesio is quick to point out that he never studied design, and yet his mastery of, and dedication to, his craft is nothing short of extraordinary. One example is his repoussé work, a complicated and laborious silversmith technique that is found in NAJO’s Abanico Necklace.
So, three days from start to finish to produce a necklace like this one? Just think: over 68 years, that’s a lot of necklaces!