The story of Ana Felicia, a Master Maker of traditionally, handmade Colombian ceramic cookware (Ollas de Barro).
A few months ago, while searching for small, skilled makers in Barichara, Colombia, we inquired at a trades school (escuela-taller) about where we could find a handmade, traditional hot-chocolate ceramic pot. Little did we know what a profound and humbling experience we had just embarked on. We were tipped off about Ana Felicia.
So my friend, Carol, and I were game. We arranged to meet a young, Guane native who does regular runs in his “moto-taxi” to Ana Felicia’s humble, farm-home. So we were off to her rural Maker’s Den.
Upon arriving, we were greeted with tight, lasting hugs from a beautiful 83 year-old, petit but strong woman, with a bright smile, a warm heart and the dry, cracked, character-filled hands of a hardworking woman. She was not frail as one might expect for a typical 83-year-old. She moved with rapid ease, strength and passion. No limps, a good pace, and the joy of life fulfilled.
She expressed always being happy to receive visitors that are interested in her tradition and work. After several shared smiles and warm greetings, she got up to show us her inventory and workplace. It was a 4-walled space with literally no frills. There were no shelves, no tools, no spin-wheel, no tables, just inventory, carefully placed on the ground and a squatting tool next to a short table where she worked her magic, one piece at a time.
We asked many questions. She told us that her parents and grandparents had pioneered a thriving ceramic pot-making business that once had employed about 300 townspeople right on the grounds where we were standing. She said they fulfilled the cookware needs of a large rural region that had very limited infrastructure to bring cookware from the larger cities. Her father and uncles were literal traveling salesmen. She is the last of a long standing tradition and business of handmade, ceramic cookware.
They made Ollas de Barro for caldo, a typical Colombian breakfast soup, larger ones for stews and lunch soups, small-necked ones to brew hot chocolate and coffee, and all-sized Tejos (a skillet-style pan) to cook Arepas, the Colombian “tortilla”.
Reluctantly, we managed to pry our entranced minds from Ana Felicia’s awe inspiring stories and there they were, the hot-chocolate pots. Beautiful, rustic, natural, just what we were looking for. But we got much more than the pot, we experienced time with the amazing woman who made our pots. Not many can still say that or even consider this experience to be possible. Needless to say, we will cherish and use those pots with the same love Ana Felicia made them.
This is exactly what we’d like to give people through our work; the real value of handmade goods and the experience with the maker. Perhaps, it won’t be rustic, ceramic cookware, but it will be about connecting hard working, passionate makers with mindful buyers who truly understand the maker’s contribution to ease and enrich our lives with the products they lovingly make.
Perhaps together we will be able to convey this meaning to our future generations, conserve maker traditions, and revive others so our children can learn to value the work behind their products. Hopefully, they will become more and more paced in their purchases, such that they look for true quality and hold out for products that work well, serve good and lasting function, and positively and sustainably impact the living and working conditions of hard workers throughout the world.
If it were easier to travel with delicate ceramics like Ana Felicia’s, Carol and I would have purchased all her stock and given it to people who would value and enjoy it. Ana Felicia would have loved us buying a lot more. She is, after all a business woman who loves what she does. Business basics really haven't changed much. It is evident that we all want to make a good living from our hard work. It truly is human to sell and trade. We all stand to gain from mindful, sustainable exchange. Join us and support our makers through conscious, Paced-E-Commerce.