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Workshop helping others

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I am so happy for you. Your progress is very inspiring to me. I am
always awed by the lovely people in this world and how giving we
human’s can be. But we can also be cruel. I have run into both,
people who are jaded and “don’t believe” that people are truly
working to get somewhere and possibly have a huge potential. Then
there are those who are just lovely, supporting and truly love their
fellow human being. I am blessed to be surrounded by lovely people
who give their all here in Mexico.

I have a long story too. Different but similar to yours. I moved to
Mexico many years ago. I ended up being all alone out here after many
years. Before I was alone me and my partner had decided to open a
small workshop to help a young girl that was stuck in the fields, she
worked 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, for really close to nothing in
pay. She was awarded a scholarship from President Fox and could not
take advantage of it because she was so poor. She had been born with
a cleft palate as well which wasn’t taken care of very well, she is
lucky that at least something was done, it was closed up, but she is
difficult to understand. I just could not stand by and let the
greatness of mind go to waste. I have a teaching degree, and I did
lampwork beads. We also produced a lot of nicer beaded jewelry. We
had very limited metalsmithing skills, having taken 1 class at a
Community College in Tucson, Az. Then suddenly I was alone, I had my
house but no money, but I decided to keep my sanity in place, to help
myself as well as this poor girl I would continue to keep going. I
opened the workshop, we had very crude tools, no material. I had
previously thought of only myself.

I had a person nearby who knew how to enamel, not very well I am
sure, but he convinced me to spend what money I had on enamels. He
had promised to teach me how to enamel and we were “business
partners”. He would teach me in return for also having access to the
enamels. I had no idea what to buy, so I bought everything I could.
It was a larger order. But I wanted to be sure I had everything I
could possibly need. He had guided me too. The company that I
purchased through was giving me a nice discount so I did not go
directly to Thompson enamels. This company said they had shipped
many packages to Mexico, without any issues, I would just pay the
taxes and they would bring it to me. Well needless to say that didn’t
work out, being the order was well over $1,000 it was dumped into a
warehouse, UPS would not touch it because no one understood what this
powder was. We had to hire a broker (very expensive) and wait. We
tried over and over but no one would touch it. So we lost it. I went
back to the company and had to fight with them for all the mistakes
they had made, UPS Mexico is not UPS USA, it was a mess. It took 2
years of a public “war” to get any redress. In the meantime Mr.
Carpenter knew of the issue and sent up a very nice selection of
enamels and tools to get started (a 1 1/2 later), with this me and
this girl got started. Thank you Mr. Carpenter and Thompson Enamels!
But we had lost 2 years plus of use of this material originally
ordered. It hurt us of course because we didn’t “learn” anything
about it during this time, we also lost use of this money. My
"Business Partner" said he wasn’t responsible for anything and
disappeared. So I had to learn all by myself. The original company
after public pressure finally replaced “most” of the order. I had all
of this material and NO COPPER!! Uggg! Hehe, It took me years to
figure out where to get copper! Here there is this idea that goes on,
no one wants to share info, they are afraid you will do what they do,
so they clam up about anything! But after 2 years I finally figured
out where to go for copper! But in the meantime my Mom had sent us
copper from the USA, it was expensive (cut shapes) but at least we
had copper. I too had been flamed by others for asking for help.
Unmercifully and cruelly.

But getting back to my story. I kept going. This girl “Bere” brought
her Aunt “Lulu” and then “Damaris” came, and so on. They are all
under 23 years old. We have been doing this now for 5 years. We are
now up to 8 people here. They work very hard and never miss a day of
work, they come Monday through Saturday, Sunday is their day off and
they work 45 hours a week. We have now found where to get copper. We
still can’t afford a lot of things. We make plans, goals and then
work on them until we can do it. They choose their hours, pay, and
make all decisions, I play devils advocate and tell them “what if.”
“But maybe…” And they have become more critical in their thinking, I
also guide them on how to spend and order much needed items. Right
now we need badly a tumbler that is larger than our mini Loritone
one. We love the little guy, but it won’t polish some of our copper
shapes well enough because of its size. We are now producing copper
forms that we sell on Etsy. So I am hopeful that this will pad our
income enough to help the girls become totally independent. I am not
doing this for me (well I love the company and the good feeling I
get, so I guess I do it for me too). I personally do not have a
income or pension. I do this mainly for them, my main reason it to
give them something to do other than work bent over in fields all day
long for such little pay. There is a real need and it is changing
lives. They have built humble homes, and some have gotten medical
care that was much needed for them. So it is working! They have
taken responsibility of their reproductive life, as well as standing
up for themselves. They have become empowered by making their own
money, decent money that lets them live with dignity. But it is hard.
I have to manage their money for them, if they have a really good
week, I hold back some for the bad ones. They have to make money, so
they all get a set amount per week. Up to now we have been able to
make it. That is quite a feat in itself. We have a lot of things we
need like we need to buy a acetylene tank because we have been
promised an acetylene torch by a ganoskin member. You have to buy the
tank, sign a contract and exchange it at least once every 3 months
here. I haven’t been able to afford silver, it is something we want
to learn to use. We have a small rolling mill now from the US, it is
the economy model, but wonderful. So helpful. I also got a small
guillotine shear that is used, it was a bargain at $30 US. We can’t
afford a lot of things here, a QT6 Tumbler is $300 US here, when in
the US it can be had for about $180 US. Electricity is more here (3
times more) many other things are way more too. Copper here is pretty
cheap. We want to get a Tap/Die set, Jump Ring maker tool, Shaft
tool, stake tools, hammers with different faces, chasing tools,
simple casting stuff and hand tools. Just general stuff. I try and
get things to my Elderly Mom (love you Mom!) who is so very painfully
slow in forwarding things, then when she ships it is via the flat
rate priority mail boxes to me that none of the suppliers are
willing to do. I have never lost a box and we are charged no taxes
with this method. The flat rate priority mail boxes are just

Pictures of some of the less shy girls and the workshop!

We can now solder, we know how to rivet, and my daughter is here to
help us learn even more, she has taken more classes in metalwork than
I. We also have a gentleman from Taxco who visits us off and on to
teach us other skills. We are really progressing!

We had a group from an organization in the US visit us, and this was
so very helpful. We sold some work to them, they resold it at a
profit so it was so very helpful to us here. Here is an email from
this same gentleman trying to find more venues to sell our work!
Below is attached his email to these people who possibly might help
us market some of our work.

Anyway, your story inspired me to tell my own. It is wonderful how
people can and will help others. I am so happy for you Andrew! Keep
your head up, you will reach any goal you put in front of yourself!

Sincerely and Regards to all, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy
New Year and all of that stuff!

Laura, Bere, Lulu, Damaris, Abby, Yanieth, Elvia, Micaellia, Erica,

  • Geraldine, Armando, Raul (only sometimes)

Email from Howard Friend forwarded to me:

Dear Carolyn, Don, Sally and Ann,

I’ll be brief just now… but, if you have some interest, email
me back.

I’ll be brief for now. Betsy and I and a Sunday School class are
thrilled about a sale of jewelry and artisan’s products we held
at our church’s coffee hour last Sunday. We made the purchases
from indigenous workshops in Mexico (their profit, and we paid
them fair prices for their goods), marked them up, and made $400
for a mission project in Mexico.


(a) the jewelry was from Workshop Cuauchichinola: +/- twenty
years ago mothers were working in the fields when a lethal mix of
DDT and other chemicals were used to spray the fields. As a
result a number of mother’s had cleft palate kids. Even those who
had corrective surgery had low quality treatment and were left
with obvious disfigurement, thus harsh treatment from classmates
through school. They came into teen years and beyond deeply
scarred, their self-esteem shattered. Laura Brito (it’s a long
story)… Long story short, she took in those girls (8 on the
present workshop team) and taught them to make fine jewelry.
Those who purchased earrings and necklaces last Sunday just raved
about the beauty and quality.

(b) Macario and Elena have a truly remarkable story to tell.
Years ago, refugees from war torn Guatemala, where their lives
ahd been directly threatened by death squads, they arrived in
Mexico literally penniless. Poco a poco they began to make and
sell beautiful artisan products: beautiful fabric drafted into
beautiful items.

© La Estacion is a huge squatters’ settlement in Cuernavaca,
Mexico where we (Karitas Foundation) have several programs.

So: buy from Taller Cuaichichinola and Macario and Elena at a
fair price, their gain… prepare a sales table for coffee hour,
displayed and pricing each item… watch people delight in being
customers… a $400 profit La Estacion’s children’s gain… watch
the eyes of delight of the SS class kids… EVERY BODY WINS!.

I will attach a brochure for the jewelry shop that tells the
story in great detail. do hope this email will pique your
interest. Ten girls who are becoming master jewelry makers, a
Guatemalan family, and 150 poor kids in La Estacion could all

Howard Friend

What is the name of the Etsy Shop? It could use some exposure I
would imagine!!! Best regards possible in a crumby rainy day


Dear Laura,

That’s a very inspiring record of your progress. I had lived in
Tucson for about 5 years before I got laid off by Honeywell
Aerospace. I had even crossed over into Mexico on brief occasions for

I had not really considered going into jewelery making until about 2
years after I got laid off and moved from Tucson into Dine’ country.
Immediately after I moved I used my unemployment money to purchase a
computer controlled milling machine to invent apparatus, but that did
not work out.

Not many of the Dine’ were willing to talk with me but I did find
one who taught me the basics of Tufa casting. I then discovered for
myself that Tufa is extremely well machinable for high detail molds,
not that I had done any casting since my first lesson.

I really am very interested in learning enameling but have no
materials to practice on. But I understand you need to invest in a
torch. I am willing to pay you for some of your unopened packaged
enamels, perhaps $25 at a time for a range of colors. Then you could
recover some of the money you have tied up in enamels and that way
have some loose cash which you could save toward a torch.

Back to you,
Andrew Jonathan Fine

Dear Laura, 

I just wanted to say I was really inspired by your story and the
photos of your workshop. Maybe one day I could help people the way
you do and that idea really excites me.


We have two Etsy Shops:

We recently hooked up with a Metal Shop that needs the work too and
we produce copper forms for enamellers now, and limited brass and
german silver forms as well and hopefully in the future sterling/fine
silver. Some are really unusual to me anyway, as I have never seen
100% copper bezel cups! Or some of the textured shapes we are able to
produce with the 80, 100 and 120 Ton Presses. It is neat to see it at
work, you can see a video here:

we don’t own the machine but we use them for whatever we want at the
moment. I am hopeful that this venture will pad out our income and
make the girls more independent, which is my ultimate goal. As long
as I am alive I will continue to guide them and help them as much as
possible. Side note: I had a brain tumor, it was successfully removed
thankfully, but of course you never know for sure. We are able to
produce special things too, if a person wants a figure cut out for
them exclusively, we can have the cutter made, or the texture die
made and then produce that for them alone, of course they would have
to pay for the cutter/texture die and then for the items as

We also are producing black bronze alloy wire, it is wonderful to
work with. It is Gunmetal, true Gunmetal. Nickle free. It is just the
best to me for wirewrapping and I haven’t found anything else like
it. It is stiffer than the usual copper cored black wire. Ours is
nice and shiny and we also have a matte version. This is another
thing I am doing to help the girls become more independent.

We also have sent consignment boxes to bead stores, so they can sell
our beads. It has been ok overall. We haven’t had much loss, usually
the people are very honest so if anyone knows of a bead store that
would work we would be thankful! More outlets for the stuff we
produce is so helpful!

Anyway, we are trying hard, and hopefully things will work out well.