We mentioned in our last newsletter that we recently collaborated with Kew Gardens, providing them with recycled glassware for the gift shop of their Dave Chihuly exhibition. We thought we’d take this opportunity to elaborate, given that Chihuly is a genius in the art of glass sculpture, and has a lot of great things to say about his medium. You can find an interview with him on the occasion of the Kew exhibition here.
Chihuly arrived at glassblowing via interior design, thinking initially that he wanted to be an interior designer. When he found his true passion, he worked as a fisherman in Alaska long enough to raise money for graduate school. From there it was a tale of going from strength to strength: RISD, then a Fulbright scholarship to Murano. After fifty years as a successful artist, he can safely say: “I’ve never met a colour I didn’t like”.
In the words of the man himself, “glass is the most magical of all materials. It transmits light in a special way.” We happen to think so too, and also love glass for the fact that it can be infinitely recycled. We have been getting our glassware from the same family-run workshops in Tonala and Tlaquepaque (both in the state of Jalisco, near Guadalajara) since Milagros’s beginnings. There, glass bottles which have reached the end of their lives are melted down and made new into beautiful, brightly-coloured glassware which lets the light through just so. Every single piece is handmade and mouth-blown, which makes for charming (we think so!) variations in height or width.
Now a firmly established and beloved fixture of the London calendar, Columbia Road’s Christmas Wednesdays hark back to the Dickensian charms of Christmases past. With its row of quaint Victorian houses and newly bedazzled streetlamps, the road was seemingly made for this time of year. We hope you join us before the run is out, for an evening of characterful, independent Christmas shopping in some of the most beloved small businesses in London. The local church will be wheeling their grand piano up and down the street for carols and the scent of mulled wine will waft through the air…
Another aspect of the Christmas season is the street-wide competition for the best window display. This year we are once again lucky to have ours populated by a veritable winter wonderland of animals. These harlequin rabbits, deer, and badgers are ‘vegan taxidermy’, created by mother-daughter duo Maria Varela and Claudia Alvarez at Chulita Design. The two have worked in partnership with natural history museums in Argentina and Spain. Their pieces are made of resin, with upholstery fabric and no animal remains, yet maintain a incredible understanding of animal anatomy. Each piece is a unique and characterful piece of art. You can find their work at their website or for sale in our shop. We’ve included a short interview with Claudia and Maria below.
How did you decide to settle on an ‘harlequin’ aesthetic?
Claudia: The idea comes from our love and passion for nature and wildlife. My mother and I grew up in families where the wildlife, theatre and art were always very present.We try to show the wildlife from our human perspective by preserving the details of the animals and twisting them into something more theatrical and fun.
What are your favourite animals to design and why?
In the 80’s we lived in South Africa for a short period of time. Ever since we’ve been in love with all the antelopes!
Taxidermy is old-fashioned and associated with people who hunt for pleasure. What was your goal with making vegan taxidermy with such a playful look?
Metamorphosis means transformation, the transformation that animals experiment in their biological development. Our goal is to create a metamorphosis in people’s mindsets, and bring wildlife to their lives and homes without hurting any animals. We have managed to maintain all the morphology of real animals, but with a playful and theatrical aesthetic.
This weekend marks thirty years of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Here at Milagros, we’d like to take this opportunity to express our virulent disgust at Trump’s wall along the U.S. Mexico border. We believe an open world is a healthy one, and are well aware of the desperation that causes people to make the perilous journey to the United States, uprooting themselves from their communities and often leaving loved ones behind. One of our foremost aims as a business is to work with artists and craftspeople so as to help them make a living, so that they do not feel pushed to make this daunting decision. Mexico holds a dear place in our hearts, and we want to bring people its aesthetics and traditions. We’re always happy to answer your questions about where something is made and who by.
And in the meantime, we hope that this weekend you raise a glass to civil resistance against harmful regimes. May you help one another to live with dignity, and may the spirit that brought the Wall down live on. Salud!
We would love to see you there other than you are.
Milagros is delighted to announce that its Day of the Dead festival returns this year for its third edition. Please join us on Saturday 12pm, November 2nd, for a day of celebration. You can expect a female mariachi band, a Day of the Dead beauty parlour, delicious Mexican food, best dressed skeleton dog competition and Frida Kahlo head dress workshop – all with loads of colour, spice, and all things nice. We’ll be filling the street with flowers and there will even be a procession! Children and furry friends are, of course, guests of honour. Further details of the event can be followed on our Facebook page – or why not stop by and have a chat in person? Either way, we hope to see you there. Salud!
About the Day of the Dead
Maybe you’re someone who first became aware of the Day of the Dead because you watched James Bond strolling through Mexico City in the opening of Spectre; or maybe you’re small and you watched the movie Coco (or maybe you’re the parent of a small person who watched the movie Coco) – either way, awareness of this festival has been increasing in the UK in recent years.
Much of Mexican culture dramatizes the collision of pre- with post-Hispanic traditions, and the Day of the Dead is a great example. It springs from an indigenous attitude to life and death, which has since been combined with what many other Christians around the world would know as All Souls’ Day, November 1st (the day after Halloween). While many people are initially struck by the preponderance of skeletons in Mexican folk art and imagery, but this is actually all part of a very different, and much more positive, attitude to death. The Day of the Dead is an opportunity to remember departed loved ones, and to celebrate their lives among others who loved them. With much colour and dancing, death is made a part of life and the well-lived life is a cause for celebration. We hope to have the pleasure of your company.
If you’ve spent any time in the United States, you’ll have noticed that tequila is a much more ubiquitous drink on the other side of the pond. Sadly, we in the UK have not, until very recently, been able to partake to anywhere near the same extent, and have remained largely in the dark. Thankfully, we’re starting to catch up, and the past decade has seen a rise in tequila and its lesser-known relative, mezcal, making the journey over. If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is but were too embarrassed to ask, then Milagros has teamed up with Sin Gusano to help elucidate you! And if you’re a seasoned connoisseur, then this is an opportunity to come and sample some of the mezcals on offer.
Tequila, though more famous by virtue of its role in margaritas, is actually a subcategory of mezcal. Mezcal is made from the cooked heart, or piña, of an agave plant (pictured above). You may recognise them – they’re always a mainstay of botanic gardens. In Mexico, mezcal is traditionally served neat, with orange slices or spices on the side as an accompaniment. It’s strong, with a clean, fiery taste.
Jon Darby founded Sin Gusano, an itinerant pop-up mezcaleria, as a labour of love, to bring mezcal further afield. Jon travels throughout Mexico, to small and sometimes tiny distilleries to find mezcals which reflect the diversity and wilderness of their terroir. Many of them have never before been imported to the UK.
To celebrate Milagros’s collaboration with La Muerte Tiene Permiso (see our last newsletter) for Shoreditch Design Week, Milagros will be hosting Sin Gusano next Thursday, September 19th, between 6 and 9pm, for an evening of mezcal and beers. There will be a free mezcal for each guest halfway through the evening, when Jon will give a brief talk about the drink and Sin Gusano’s work. Join us to share Mexico’s contemporary artisanal heritage in design and drinks and view the La Muerte Tiene Permiso collection with founder Omar Ortiz Franco. We hope to see you there – salud!
Sin Gusano’s educational mezcal box sets will also be available to purchase from Milagros for the duration of Shoreditch Design Triangle (14th – 22nd September). There are two boxes to choose from: The Regional Variety and Agave Variety. Each set contains three 150ml bottles of rare agave spirits, three traditional mezcal drinking glasses from Oaxaca, and three placemats, which conveniently are also tasting notes. The regional set consists of distillates from the Espadín agave, showcasing the terroir of different regions. The agave set contains distillates from rare and wild agave species from the Oaxaca valley, showcasing differing plant characteristics. The boxes are fully recyclable, built to order in London, and sealed with paper hand-made by artisans in Oaxaca from the fibres of the magical agave plant.
Based between Europe and Mexico, the brand’s unusual name, which translates as ‘death has permission’, reflects Franco’s belief that though death comes for us all, if we can spend a life time imparting meaning and memory to the objects that surround us, it will not have been in vain. The phrase is also the title of a well-renowned short story by 20th century Mexican writer Edmundo Valadés, wherein a group of campesinos (farmers) band together to get revenge on an unfair mayor. It’s a much-cherished tale of social justice and worker solidarity – fitting for a brand that champions the work of small-scale artisans and bringing them to a discerning European clientele for a fair price.
Indeed, La Muerte Tiene Permiso has a curated range of homewares made by skilled craftspeople working in traditional techniques. Much like Tom Bloom of Milagros, Franco travels the country, building relationships with small family-run workshops and individual artisans, with particular emphasis on the areas around Oaxaca and Tonala, Jalisco. These tend to be small studios working with local materials such as clay and volcanic stone, and who prioritise environmental concerns such as water usage. The end products, informed by Franco’s twenty-first century design vision, are minimalist, geometric designs; often using single colours in matte finishes, and relying on simple curves or geometric shapes. There is handblown recycled glassware and a great variety of ceramics. Particularly noteworthy are La Muerte’s black pottery, which riffs on its lineage as a distinctly Mexican craft, but makes for eminently contemporary ceramics.
Shoreditch Design Triangle is an annual celebration of creativity and design in Shoreditch, serving as an opportunity for local businesses and institutions to showcase exciting new developments in a mutually supportive and collaborative environment. Now in its eleventh year, the Design Triangle will be running from September 14th to September 22nd. Keep an eye out for Milagros friends Mama Shelter as well – they’re new to the neighbourhood! Details of Milagros’s opening times for the duration can be found below or on the Shoreditch Design Triangle website:
14th September 201911:00 am – 7:00 pm
15th September 201911:00 am – 7:00 pm
16th September 201911:00 am – 7:00 pm
17th September 201911:00 am – 7:00 pm
18th September 201911:00 am – 7:00 pm
19th September 201911:00 am – 7:00 pm
21st September 201911:00 am – 7:00 pm
22nd September 201911:00 am – 7:00 pm
Milagros is thrilled to announce that many of their artists and makers in Mexico work is now in the V&A Museum in collaboration with the Frida Kahlo – Making Her Self Up. The exhibition presents an extraordinary collection of personal artefacts and clothing belonging to the iconic Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. Locked away for 50 years after her death, this collection has never before been exhibited outside Mexico. It is on until 4th November 2018.
Friday Kahlo was an avant-garde surrealist and great lover of Mexican folk art and traditions. Yet careful attention to her mother country’s exceptional folk art traditions shows that surrealism is practically imbued in its culture, with angels, devils, skeletons and virgins living comfortably alongside the vernacular of a modern capitalist society. Never having undergone a protestant reformation nor a proletarian revolution, Mexico remains deeply enmeshed in a religious and agrarian imaginary from which it looks slightly askance at the break-neck speed of Western technological society. No matter how fast your internet speed or big your picture hat, underneath we are all skeletons! It is Milagros’s great pleasure to make the connections between Kahlo’s work and the folk art she celebrated more vivid to the V&A’s visitors.
Milagros – Where the Living and the Dead Go Shopping
Tom Bloom set up Milagros in 1991, importing Mexican folk art, glassware, tiles and ceramics to sell in his Queens Road café in Bristol. The business venture was inspired by his visit to Mexico the previous year when he fell in love with the flamboyant, eclectic beauty of its folk art and crafts. A shop would give visibility to these little known delights as well as help sustain the fragile network of makers he met on his travels. Tom met the textile designer Juliette Tuke in 1997 and they entered partnership together. That year the business moved to Columbia Rd, home to the colourful and rowdy East End flower market. A more complimentary setting you couldn’t find. The shop’s name, Milagros, means ‘miracle’ in Spanish and conjures the proximity of the Gods in daily Mexican life. But this toe-hold of Mexico on the streets of rainy London, filled with grimacing skulls, iridescent glazes, winking patterns and exotic carved chimeras can feel like a miracle of its own to the casual passer by.
Friends of Milagros – Hola!
We hope you will join us for our upcoming book launch of Francisco Cantú’s book The Line Becomes A River, a New York Times bestseller and recent Book of the Week on Radio 4, on Tuesday 20th March from 6.30pm. The event will take place at our Milagros shop, 61 Columbia Rd, E2.
Tuesday 20th March from 6.30pm. The event will take place at our Milagros shop, 61 Columbia Rd, E2.
The book is an unflinching account of Cantú’s four years spent working as a US Border Patrol agent along the US-Mexican border, from 2008-2012, before quitting amidst a swirl of harrowing experiences and stress related nightmares. There is, however, no need for a swat team of Netflix screenwriters to concoct the almost constant tragedy and acts of mercy that Cantú’s tales of the border record in episodic bursts. As a third generation Mexican migrant, border agent, pursuant and rescuer of desert-parched and fearful migrants the author cuts a controversial figure. The book is part sobering account of this brutal border regime and the lives it devastates, and part self-examination of his role within it. The Line Becomes A River pivots on the enigma of why Cantú chose to commit to the defence of an abstract line drawn by politicians and geometers, yet provides many answers through the profound insights his police work allowed.
‘Stunningly good. Beautiful, smart, raw, sad, poetic and humane… It’s the best thing I’ve read for ages’, James Rebanks, author of THE SHEPHERD’S LIFE
Cantú will read from his book and there will be a short discussion, after which all guests are invited to a Mezcal tasting introduced by the author.
Don’t miss out on the 10% reduction on all our hand-crafted Mexican glassware, ceramics and objet d’art that we’ll be giving away on all in-store sales that day.
Francisco Cantú served as an agent for the United States Border Patrol from 2008 to 2012, working in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. A former Fulbright fellow, he is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a 2017 Whiting Award. His writing and translations have been featured in The Best American Essays, Harper’s, n+1, Orion, and Guernica, as well as on This American Life. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.
Milagros’ Newsletter Spring 2016.
“If we are a metaphor of the universe, the human couple is the metaphor par excellence, the point of intersection of all forces and the seed of all forms. The couple is time recaptured, the return to the time before time.”
Milagros has collaborated with Dandy Star to produce these hand made encaustic tiles. They are now available to buy online. Encaustic Tiles by Dandy Star.
East End Prints Competition.
East End Prints are running a competition looking for the fifty best Frida Kahlo.
Recent Projects. Milagros works with architects and designers.
Fitzrovia, London – Tiles
Soho London – Tiles
Soho House, Royalty House,
Soho, London – Tiles
Kings Cross, London – Tiles
Smithfield & Waterloo
Bespoke Tiles – Nandos, Balham.
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.
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 pastie, which has since become a delicacy. The miners would have taught their Mexican wives how to make Cornish pasties. Over time the pasta, as is called in Mexico, has been adapted to a Mexican pallet and is now considered a delicacy. The pasties are filled chicken, tuna, beef, sausage, beans and pineapples all served with a salsa. Aside from introducing the Cornish pasty they also introduced football, which has since become a national obsession.
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.www.milagros.co.uk/tin/
At the tin makers Mexico.
Milagros is a Mexican shop on Columbia Road’s famous flower market
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