Ángel Vásquez Cruz, Teopisca, Chiapas
Ángel Vásquez Cruz lives and works in Teopisca, Chiapas. He is a leather worker who makes his living creating all types of utilitarian items from cuero (leather). This craft, of Spanish precedents, is still practiced. It consists of the elaboration of various objects from leather or animal skin, which is engraved and hammered.
First, the leather goes through the tannery process to preserve it and make it pliable, and then it is transformed into handsome wallets, belts, bags, portfolios, suitcases, caps, hats etc. in various sizes and designs according to each craftsman's taste. The Hispanic branch of craftsmanship is still done in the Los Altos (highland) region, mainly at San Cristóbal de Las Casas and Teopisca.
Sometimes the leather is engraved or chiseled. The quality of the leather goods produced in Teopisca is astounding. On top of that, they work with all local materials.
First the skins are treated to avoid putrefaction and also give them flexibility and softness and this way, wallets, belts, purses, portfolios, suitcases, caps, hats and other items of many shapes and sizes are done by the saddler.
In the case of almost every leather artisan, the work is a family affair. The fathers and sons work together, the sons learning from their fathers, the mothers and daughters helping in the workshop. Leatherwork is an ancient craft which to some extent still uses the basic tools that were in use many centuries ago.
Designs are traditionally flowing patterns using the labor-intensive punch and tool method and colored with dye or varnish. Ángel hand-stitches the beautiful purses he creates. Often, he will use fabric from Chiapan huipiles (a type of blouse/dress worn by the indigenous women) to add further decoration and a unique quality to the piece.
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