AN AMERICAN IN TAXCO

Sterling silver jewelry of modern Mexico found worldwide attention largely thanks to one man, William Spratling (1900-1967), American associate professor of architecture.

Taxco was a lovely silver mining, hill town city located south west from Mexico City and the center of a hand-wrought silver industry in the 1930’s.  In 1931, William Spratling established in this town known as the City of Silver,  Las Delicias workshop. He produced silver jewelry and objects, tinware and furniture.

In his taller, Sparkling trained the best artisans and influenced an entire generation of Mexican and American silversmiths while transforming the tiny village of Taxco into the “Florence of Mexico.” His true life’s work was “to conserve, redeem, and interpret the ancient culture of his adopted country”.

HÉCTOR AGUILAR AND TALLER BORDA

Among the many silversmiths he trained, Hector Aguilar left a permanent mark on Mexico’s artistic orientation and, like Spratling, formed an impressive number of future leading figures in the Mexican metal art realm in his Taller Borda,  located within the grounds of  an imposing 19th century colonial residence, Casa Borda.

Hector Aguilar was born in 1905 into a prominent Mexican family and before building his community of hundreds of silversmiths and artisans in Taxco, worked as a portrait and landscape photographer and as a tour operator.  During these tours, two events determined his new life. In the mid 1930’s. he met his future wife, a beautiful widow from Kansas , Lois Cartwright, and William Sparkling who offered him a job as manager of Taller Las Delicias that at the time employed nearly 100 artisans and worked to

“create a tradition where none had existed, but always keeping within a style which had a right to exist in Mexico”. 

After two years, In 1939 Lois convinced her husband Hector Aguilar to go into business together and they went on to establish the  Taller Borda that was organized around a courtyard and featured also a leather workshop that produced purses and belts with silver buckles.

Hector was a talented draftsman, designer and respected as a leader. Lois was a skilled financial manager. In this extraordinary space, hundreds of handmade pieces of silver jewelry, necklaces, brooches, bracelets and earrings were  produced in a week.

INNOVATING JEWELRY DESIGN AND CRAFTMANSHIP

Aguilar’s signature pieces were the fertility bracelet, the Aztec Flower cuff, and the Lyre ensemble.

His designs  have a distinctive style. He reinterpreted  Pre-Columbian images and Aztec masks, integrating abstract with decorative line patterns; he designed heavily formed, contorted, and twisting lines representing animals and plants, or simple compositions of circles and triangles. 

The reference to Mexican’s past in the  choice of his motifs was to elevate the artistic heritage of his country at the same level of appreciation as European art. 

In his designs he incorporated stones such as onyx, obisdian, amethyst, quartz, azurite, and opals outsourcing the lapidary work to Daniel and Saul Martinez.

BEYOND JEWEWLRY

One of the rooms in Aguilar’s workshop contained the leather atelier that produced decorated leather belts and purses with scrollwork stitches in pita, a tough cream colored threat taken from the maguey plant. Among the enthusiasts of Aquilar’s production was the painter Georgia O’Keeffe who loved collecting his silver against black belts, bracelets, rings and necklaces.

During WWII,  metal shortages forced the US to  prohibit the use of silver in the production of jewelry. Therefore Mexican silver began to be massively imported. 

From 1943 to 1950, Héctor Aguilar,went into business with Gerald Rosenberger, owner of CORO, the renown american costume jewelry company,  that allowed him to produce silver costume jewelry on a large scale aided by the introduction of mechanized production. The Coro jewelry made at the Taller Borda was all silver and was hand-finished by a workforce that grew to a number close to 300 artisans.

In 1962, Héctor Aguilar’s Taller Borda was forced into bankruptcy through an increase in costs and loss of tourism and sales.

Héctor Aguilar’s works continue to be an essential reference when describing Mexican Silver. 

“He inspired an aesthetic dialogue that included artisans, other designers, and the customers… Creativity engenders creativity, drawing out the best of everyone involved in the process. The Workshop was an open and flexible environment. The structure itself allowed for the expression of individuality among the workers.” (pg 99)

SPRATLING AND AGUILAR’S HERITAGE

Among the many successful mexican silver designers that wer formed in Spratling and Aguilar’s workshops were Los Castillos and Antonio Pineda.

LOS CASTILLOS

Founded in 1939, by Antonio Castillo, his american artist wife Margot van Voorhies Carr and his brothers Jorge, Justo and Miguel, the workshop Los Castillos has been the most prolific of all workshops in Taxco employing 350 artisans and designers.  Their jewelry is still sought after by enthusiast collectors.

ANTONIO PINEDA

The legendary mexican silver designer  Antonio Pineda began his career, as many others, in Spratlings workshop Las Delicias.  opened his own silver workshop in 1941 in his hometown of Taxco. His works have been exhibited internationally, beginning in 1944 when he participated in an exposition in San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor.

Pineda’s production is characterized by exceptional technical quality and the use of almost pure silver,  dramatic and sensuous effect and  the international style of his later years that are considered true wearable art.

The collectible modernist mexican creations that were created in the Mexican City of Silver of Taxco continue to inspire contemporary jewelry designs and are being auctioned at high closing prices at  Sotheby’s and Christies.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

484 beautiful color photographs of handmade silver jewelry, belts, holloware, carpentry created in the different rooms of Hector Aguilar’s workshop by himself and other renown Maestros: Roberto Cuevas and Genaro Juarez, copper jewelry by Fulijencio Castillo. In 1942, with the appearance of the machine, the handmade elements were related to the application of ornamentation and in the finishing work.  

Many hallmarks are also featured that aid in the attribution of unidentified pieces.

The book recounts extensively the development of Aguilar’s successful workshop, the processes of production and features the history of his spectacular 16th century farm Hacienda San Juan Bautista,  a marvelous complex of aqueducts, towers, buildings, pools with hundreds of goldfish and lilypads, canals, fountains, gardens, and patios for the silver refining.

The book features works by Valentìn Vidaurreta, Gabriel Flores, Pedro Castillo Gallegos, Reveriano Castillo, Damaso Gallegos, Rafael Salvador Melendez Adan, Hubert Harmon, Enrique Ledesma, Manuel Altamirano, Rancho Alegre, and Conquistador owned by the Swedish  industrialist and founder of Electrolux, Leonard Wenner-Gren.

PRICE € 65,00 + SHIPPING

PUBLISHING DATE: 1996; AUTHOR: PENNY C. MORRILL

PUBLISHER: SCHIFFER PUBLISHING LTD

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