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Tin makers from Mexico


Tin, poor man's silver, from Mexico

 In the 1824 Cornish tin miners left England for Mexico to mine the tin. There is one particular town, Pachuca in Mexico where the residents have blue eyes and a passing resemblance to their Cornish ancestors. They introduced the Mexicans to the Cornish pasty, which has since become a delicacy. Aside from introducing the Cornish pasty they also introduced football, which has since become a national obsession.

 Tin has traditionally mined in Mexico since Pre- Cortes. The Aztecs used it for possibly as a form of currency. The Spanish although primarily interested in gold and silver also found tin to mines. The Spanish needed tin to make bronze armaments with their continued war efforts in Europe so tin was exported to Spain. Before modern mining methods the tin in Mexico was found in river deposits, which made it labour intensive to mine. The quality was described as being as good as English tin. Tin was initially imported into Mexico from England in sheets. It was with the advent of modern mining methods that a significant tin enterprise developed in the late 18th Century to early 19th Century. Prior to that he had been used for bells, armaments, scientific and industrial apparatus and equipment.

Tin is lightweight, it has strength and is cheap and has similar visual qualities to silver, it not toxic and has a low melting point. It is highly resistant to corrosion and friction. Therefore it was initially used for functional, utilitarian items such as containers, lamps, candlestick, toys, trays. These items have an ephemeral quality and were quickly replaced.

 It was only in the 1930’s that intellectuals and artists collected these items. There was a surge in the popularity of tin and folk art. Tinsmiths who had initially just made functionally tin objects expanded their repertoire. In the 1960’s with the advent of tourism tinwork expanded further. Ideas for new tin products came from all areas of the globe and the tinsmiths happily tried out new designs.

Tin Decorations.

The tin decorations are hand made in Mexico from a family of tinsmiths.The decorations are inspired by the Milagros that adorn the church walls of Mexico. Milagros are the small silver of gold votive offering that come in the shape of body parts, animals, foods, houses and plots of land. Milagros would have traditionally been given to the preferred saint in the hope of a pray answered or to give thanks for a pray answered. Hearts would represent a romantic connection. The objects are made from tin, a metal that is light, has strength and has similar visual qualities as silver. Most Mexican tinwork is now made in the Mexican states of Guanajuato, Jalisco and Oaxaca in small family run workshops. We buy and commission work from one such workshop in  Guanajuato and Oaxaca.

Price: £3 each
Dimensions: 10 to 15cm at their widest point.

 Retablos or votives

Retablos are votive paintings that give thanks for prayers answered. This tradition came to Mexico five centuries ago with the Catholic Spanish. For two centuries these retablos have been painted onto small metal sheets by neighbourhood retableros. Mexican painter Frida Kahlo had an extensive collection of retablos. Artist Alfredo Vilchis picked up on this tradition of telling a simple, dramatic story with a figurative scene and written commentary. He has been painting for 20 years, and his paintings are based on stories that have been told to him. Today his sons are following in his footsteps.

The retablos cost £95 each and measure approximately 30 x 20cm.


Mexican Niches

The niches are moquettes of everyday life in Mexico. They humorously reflect aspects of Mexican life. At the market place, at church praying, at a wedding, at festivals, religion, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, in heaven and in hell. They are decorated in a style that reflects Mexicans love of decoration and vivid colour. The actors for the most part of skeletons. Mexico has a different understanding of death to the European and North Americans. In the words of Octavia Paz. (see text below)

The niches measure 24 cm x 20 cm and cost £65 each.