Artesano Copper Imports is dedicated to promoting the craft of hand hammered copper and to enhancing the lives of the individual artisans. We pay the artisans a fair price for their work and provide tools and materials to assist them in the creation of their pieces. For our customers, we provide biographical information and a photo of each artisan, brochures that summarize the history and process of the craft, and additional educational materials.
Artesano Copper Imports buys directly from ten different families of artisans in the village of Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán, Mexico. We carefully select work for the beauty of the design and for high quality craftsmanship. Most of the pieces that we sell are signed by the artisans and are limited editions.
Santa Clara del Cobre (copper) is the foremost site in Mexico, perhaps in the world, for the fabrication of hammered copper vessels. The artisans from Santa Clara have been invited to teach their craft and exhibit their work in museums and galleries around the world. The family of artisan Bricio Pureco Farfán was recently featured on the PBS special "The Desert Speaks".
In Mexico the tradition of hammered copper or "cobre martillado" dates back to pre-Columbian times. The Purépecha Indians of Michoacán (the primary indigenous group in the Santa Clara del Cobre region) have fabricated tools, weapons, jewelry, animal effigies, and figurines out of copper for over 500 years. Originally the copper came from above ground copper mines in Michoacán.
Today the artisans use recycled copper to make their vessels. They buy scrap copper wire from the electric company and melt it into copper ingots. The ingots, which look like hard fat pancakes, are heated and hand hammered repeatedly until the sides begin to rise. The artisans then begin the laborious process of shaping the piece.
No soldering, casting, or molds are used in this process, and because of this, each vessel is unique. Instead the artisans use homemade hammers, anvils, and stakes. They slowly coax the hard metal into taking a form by first softening it with fire and then placing the piece on a stake and hand hammering until the piece begins to harden. This process is repeated over and over again until the desired shape is achieved.
There are now over 200 workshops in Santa Clara del Cobre dedicated to producing hand hammered copper work. The workshops are connected to the artisans’ homes and are generally shared by the extended family. The workshops are very active places with a range of young to old people working the copper.