San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, (SMA), is a gorgeous hamlet of a city beautifully perched in the hills of central Mexico, a few hours north of Ciudad de Mexico. Views reigning as vast as one's imagination with a cityscape and countryside that has grown into a tourist travelin', vacation/weekend home havin', expat livin', city capital. As a youngster and native of SMA, Maestro Abelardo Gil, witnessed his beloved home grow into the bustling town it is now. Some sections of this pueblo remain as if time stood still., frozen in the 13th to 15th centuries which is a huge part of the charming energy SMA brings to one's door. Another part is the Rose Quartz crystal the town is known to sit upon. Bringing the energy of love, unconditionally, unexpectedly, but love transmuted none the less.
Our maestro, who we affectionately call Abé, is as I observe, a charismatic young man in body, housing an old soul in spirit. As a boy he wanted to work and earn money he says he needed to do the many things he desired. Particularly at the age of 18 years old he was highly motivated to make more money as he now had a girlfriend. He says he wanted to take her out and show her a good time. (Hey, I second that emotion). During that same time his cousin witnessed, which most of us now know, Abé's unwavering determination to not just work, but to do what was necessary to reach any goal, so he invited Abé to work with him.
While working alongside his cousin he learned the basics of jewelry making. However, his curiosity would never be satisfied with just the basics. Abé wanted to learn more. So he began to do his research and found there was a lack of books providing information on advancing the craft. Abé decided to teach himself. Of course he did! Because that's Abé. He would study a piece of jewelry to see if he could make it, then try again and again until he successfully learned the techniques necessary to make that particular piece. He would then begin the process all over. He conceptualized, designed and made whatever he'd imagined. He told me that he loves the actual construction process in making a piece and that he likes the feel of whatever chosen metal he's working with. And, I too have learned that you really can feel the difference of each metal whether it's by the weight of it, its texture, the quality, how it files, bends or melts. They all have their own characteristics, like each one of us.
When asked why he teaches this art he said, "I teach because I want people to experience the love of jewelry making like me." And, after 21 years in business he has never been interested in the mass production of jewelry. He wants to feel good and proud about what he produces and offers the world. This carries over with the creation of his own family's jewelry business where traditional handmade pieces are produced and coveted internationally. He started the company to make sure everyone in his family was taken care of. One apprentice nephew, Fernando, has become quite the craftsman under his uncle's influence.
Abé is his only competition, comprised of a nature that knows no limits. Having had a professional career as a 5k runner, who has won titles to boot, he does not care what any other jeweler, studio or shop is doing. He's confident in knowing he offers knowledge and a skillset that can't be matched. Abé also knows that the end result will show what he's capable of, what his students are capable of and does not need to shout it from the top of La Parroquia. He truly desires to see everyone do well and is a huge supporter of current and former students owning and being successful in their own businesses.
One of the best reasons I was attracted to this instruction and this energy, is the can-do spirit. Finding a way to make it happen! Once I was working on a piece that seemed to take forever and ever to complete. At one point I was near the finish line, then I messed up. I'm sure I said, out loud, "Oh shit!" , like everyone does in studio at one time or another. When we hear that or any cousin to that, there are many, there's a collective sigh and sympathetic vibe in the air because we all know what it means. I was pissed at myself, as any beginner or intermediate jeweler knows the feeling of burning up a decorative bezel under a flame that's too hot or collapsing a jump ring in the same manner. I was in tears, so in the 'Abé way', he gave me "the look". "The look" that me and my compadres have all experienced when this happens. He then gave me a hug, turned me around by my shoulders pointing me in the direction of my station while shrugging his own shoulders he said, "Let's start over, you have to start over". Thank goodness that particular piece turned out much better than the original design.
I welcome being in the zone while in studio, experiencing the highs and lows of the process. Then, finally, from frustration to elation, being proud of the end result. There's nothing like it. I love making jewelry because of its process. The layers you uncover during that process and the layers you uncover about yourself within the process can be revealing and intoxicating. So much goes into making a custom piece for someone, so I make sure my energy is cleared before I begin anyone's creation. I dive in and enjoy what unfolds. The studio offers an opportunity to be as creative as we like and if it can be made, whether begining with the rolling of the metal to the final polish of a brilliant shine, it's made! Abé is an artists' instructor and an instructor's instructor and those of us that hangout in studio have been very fortunate to be under his tutelage. Also, after having interviewed him for this brief story, I totally understand his teaching style which is 'do it over until you get it right', then you're shown the shortcut afterwards. I really didn't get it during class, thankfully I get it now. Thank you for creating a space that is now a home away from home. ¡Mucho gracias Abé, mi susurrador de joyas!
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