Friday, April 15, 2011

South of the Border

William Spratling moved to Mexico in 1929 after nine years as a writer and architectural student in New Orleans, where he associated with literary colony types like Faulkner, Farge, Blom and many others. Spratling's interest in the artisans of Mexico led to his promotion of a gallery show for the works of Diego Rivera, the first Mexican art presentation in the US.

Dwight Morrow, a US Ambassador, pointed out that the town of Taxco was a silver mining center, had been for centuries, but there was a lack of art being produced in the area. Spratling's design background was ample and he subsequently hired an experienced goldsmith to join him in Taxco and begin producing his jewelry designs. Once it was apparent that these works were desirable in the states, several artisans were employed to increase production.

Sadly, Spratling opened his company to private investors and eventually lost control of “Spratling y Artesanos” in 1946. But what he had started flourished dramatically and Mexican jewelry design was available throughout America in abundance, due to his efforts.

I often acquire Mexican produced pieces as many of them are beautifully designed and constructed. Link bracelets like this bulky dyed quartz Bracelet, probably from the 1940s, are superb examples of the quality work coming out of Mexico. The linking of large sterling panels was a Spratling innovation and this Lapis Inlay bracelet incorporates Aztec design elements, thick, sturdy construction and was undoubtedly fashioned after a Spratling design. This Taxco artisan hallmarked Wave design bracelet is just superb and really speaks to the talent of the silversmith. Mexican link bracelet design became very bold as time went on as seen in this 4 link bracelet featuring Amethyst stones and chisel chased design elements.

Ornate multi-layered sterling designs were popular with the Taxco area artisans and many are executed so beautifully and with such attention to detail, that they increased demand for Mexican jewelry, like this 1930s Rose Design bracelet. Finding one is this condition is rare and it's a shining example of detailed silversmithing. This cross pendant, hallmarked by a Taxco artisan, incorporates ornate layering and a lapis centerpiece, as well as linking techniques.

Often times Taxco artisans would use a higher grade of silver due to it's availability. This 950 silver link necklace with it's dyed stones is a great example of using silver of a higher grade than sterling and following link design edicts established by Spratling.

Art Deco designs were produced in great quantities when Mexican jewelry was being developed. This 1930s-40s set of Green Glass Dangle earring, probably by renowned artisan Pedro Castillo are a wonderful handcrafted example. This boldly designed Art Deco pin can also be used as a pendant by attaching a chain to the delicate loops and it's Art Deco design is “over the top.”

A style came out of the Taxco area in the 1930s resembling Native American repousse work. The silver would be hammered into wooden molds of Mexican icons, and attached to a flat backing plate. The wood rendered a much “softer” edge than that of Native American repousse work and this Aztec design influenced, large format pin is a superb example of this technique.

We will continue to offer high quality Mexican works. Their history is intriguing, the craftsmanship is often outstanding and the bold nature of the work is a lot of fun to wear.