We met Elvia Silva Bartolo in 2004 while Doug and I were shooting our documentary. She’s in Zipiajo, a Purepecha village way off the beaten track where a few artisans make unpainted terracotta clay pots and gorgeous embroidered blouses.We didn’t know about the embroidery at the time, and until we were in Elvia’s workshop we had no idea that she had an incredible talent for sculpting clay animal figures. We bought a few small ones that day, and later purchased some that won prizes in Michoacán state fairs. She has a piece in the prestigious Museo del Arte Popular in Mexico City. The reptile carrying her babies on her back in the photo has sat on our coffee table for years. A few years ago I learned that Elvia is president of an artisan cooperative in Zipiajo that makes lovely textiles, and we have managed to buy some for our customers that are available on our website.
When we were finally able to return to Mexico after being vaccinated for Covid, Zipiajo was one of the places I was excited to visit. I had ordered some embroidered blouses via WhatsApp, and I was looking forward to picking them up. Things have changed a lot since '04. In addition to being able to send me photos (thanks to a young man in the internet café) the cooperative now has business cards and product tags, and when you enter Elvia's compound, you pass through an attractive showroom where lovely clay figures are on display. Clay pots were drying outside and some were being fired with a mound of straw covering them.
The blouses were waiting for me in the cooperative's store, and they were even more beautiful in person. The color choices, designs, and the quality of the work are truly breathtaking. You can find them on our website at https://mexico-by-hand.myshopify.com/collections/textiles
Here's our friend Betsy holding up one of my favorites!