This book brings together ten stories from artisans from the Araucanía Region and aims to contribute to the enhancement and dissemination of traditional crafts, which have a long history, a manifestation of a living culture and the love of its creators towards their craft. .
We are very happy to tell you that a while ago we won a Culture Fund to be able to edit a small book about ten artisans from the Araucanía region who work with Cordillerana. With great research by Christine Gleisner and wonderful photos by Edgar Dassi Junior , we will be proud to share with you on our website, month by month, one by one, the wonderful stories of life and love for a profession. For the moment we advance the introduction by Christine and La editorial dell the Cordillerana team.
Furthermore in This special collection on our website can buy all the wonders that these artisans create with their skillful hands and dedicated science.
This text is the result of a Fondart project, launched in 2020, together with Cordillerana, a social project of the NGO debuenafe. The initiative aims to document, enhance and disseminate traditional crafts made by ten artisans from rural towns in the Araucanía Region.
In the southern part of our country, women, many of them belonging to the Mapuche people, have played a central role in the transfer of traditional crafts and ancient knowledge through generations, among which is a deep knowledge of the nature and respect for the environment. Through their testimonies, their jobs and their localities we want to make known their wisdom, their contribution to our cultural heritage and a vision of the world that, we hope, can inspire many people.
The main method of the project was a series of interviews, which were carried out between 2021 and 2022, a historical investigation and a field visit, in which a photographic record of the protagonists, their workshops, their works and their localities.
The articles are organized according to crafts: from the colorful textiles in sheep's wool, the surprising basketry in vegetable fibers, the slow wood carving, to the fine silver metalwork and the innovative felt work. Each chapter presents a different artisan and is written independently of the other stories, so they can be read in any order.
The following pages are a recognition of the valuable work of the artisans of our country and we hope that they are an encouragement to them and many others who contribute with their effort and dedication to preserving our cultural heritage.
Finally, we would like to invite each person who reads these pages to value and appreciate each artisanal piece, bearer of a long history, manifestation of a living culture and the love of its creator towards her craft.
Christine Gleisner Vergara
It is a small space, but we want to take advantage of it to at least outline three principles that guide us as an organization. The first is the idea that craftsmanship is and has always been anonymous, without being impersonal or without history. For the Greeks, what we today call art and/or craftsmanship was part of techné along with other human skills, such as riding a horse, writing verses or mending shoes. For the Romans, on the other hand, the execution of a large mosaic mural in the temple of Neptune and Amphitrite was part of the ars mechanica , just like shoeing a horse, cooking a stew or growing potatoes in the garden. In this open field, the notion of author was - to say the least - irrelevant, and the division between a higher art and craft, an illusion 1 .
It was late, in the Italian Renaissance, that the notion of the artist, the cult of his personality and the obsession with authorship and signature emerged. An Art with capital letters is invented, part of the liberal arts , along with geometry and mathematics, all disciplines for free, intellectual men, independent of manual work. From then until the beginning of the 20th century, it is the image of the artist that is on the rise, as an individual endowed with an unusual vision and talent, who produces works full of inspiration in solitude. For its part, the image of the artisan and the man of trades is gradually degrading, as if making and executing something with skill had lost ground.
Today, it is precisely the work of artisans and their anonymity that we seek to rescue. There is not a denial of authorship, but rather a relocation of its importance as part of a process that is shared and social. For the practice of the trades, in the making of a chupalla, the one who sows the wheat is as important as the one who braids the straw and who shapes the hat. The honesty, simplicity and nobility of the crafts come from their collective origin, anchored in tradition, in what the ancients have always done, which is nothing more than a form of collective creation where each part, each generation and cultivator contributes to the final result without being its owner. The handcrafted object always bears the hands of those who made it, a mark that is not a signature, nor a name, but a trace that remembers the brotherhood of all the women and men who make it, from all times and places.
The second idea that we want to illuminate is that craftsmanship is and has always been utilitarian. As Octavio Paz 2 wrote, the beauty of a clay vessel is linked not only to its beautiful shape but also to the liquid it contains and the thirst it quenches. And utilitarian, yes, but that does not mean it is exempt from the pleasure of ornament and its contemplation. Utilitarian, not functionalist, since craftsmanship also takes pleasure in ornament, in the insistence on adornment and aesthetic contemplation. Craftsmanship is thus generous, because it is useful and beautiful at the same time.
If a piece is not utilitarian, it is a museum piece and museums are for dead things. And between that death of display cases and the rapid expiration that the objects manufactured by machines today have printed in advance, we find craftsmanship. It bears in the footprints of those who made it, the pulse of the most human time. Because craftsmanship ages as and with us; It wears out slowly over the years, and one day it too dies, to be replaced by another similar object, but never the same, for the same purpose, but never in the same way.
That is why we prefer living crafts in everyone's daily lives, because a traditional craft that does not find a place in our homes and in our lives is a craft destined to die. That is why, more than in museums and beautiful books, at Cordillerana we believe that the strengthening of craftsmanship lies in the strengthening of its fair, sustainable and sustained trade, thus integrating it into our most domestic routines.
The third principle that indicates the north is moderation. For more than twenty years we have worked almost exclusively with women, from rural areas, and most of them from indigenous peoples. But we have always respected their right to privacy and to be valued for their work, for what their hands as makers do, regardless of their gender or which side of the Itata they were born on. We do not abuse the use of your image as a marketing strategy to satisfy an ancestral, native or rural fetish created from the urban imagination. Those banners that are fashionable today have been principles that we have practiced with prudence and respect since 1999, inspired by cultural appreciation rather than appropriation, opening ourselves as a marketing channel for hundreds of women, integrating them and their communities into a network. of circular economy.
Although we want to continue and transform this prologue into a broader dialogue, we must close to present this small edition of interviews and life stories of women dedicated to the cult of a profession, with which we want to highlight the complex fabric of a practice. community, collective, social and inherited. A book with photos, not of faces, but of hands, which seem to add up to a secret choreography of alchemists who transform matter. All notions contrary to the current times, since today's art and its commerce based on a cult of authorship, image and sacredness seems anachronistic to us, and on this continent, furthermore, a bad remnant of European and bourgeois colonialism. For more useful gadgets and fewer sacred works, more workshops and fewer factories.
1 Larry Shiner, The Invention of Art. A cultural history, Paidós, Barcelona/Buenos Aires/ México, 2010.
2 Octavio Paz, “Use and contemplation” in Camacol, Vol. 11, Edition 34, March 1998, pp. 120-125.