Maker Spotlight: Gourd Accessories & Ornaments

Maker Spotlight: Gourd Accessories & Ornaments

At Tulia’s Artisan Gallery, we aim to highlight the artisans who work with us as they are exceptional in handmade crafts. If you have taken a peek at our website, you may have noticed the brilliant bird jewelry section. Luis and Mary are the couple behind these accessories in addition to our brand new line of Holiday Ornaments.  Aliya Segura interviewed Luis and Mary to get their insight on how they have grown their business and creative process. Aliya talked to Luis for most of the interview as the couple entrusted Luis with his creative roots to talk about his experience being an artisan.

How did you begin creating earrings and brooches? 

Luis: For me being creative is very easy as I have always been very artistic as a kid. From when I was young, I have always been very artistic. I was taught new techniques in carving gourd and used my skill set to create jewelry and other crafts.  I am indigenous Mokaná and gourd is our traditional material for arts and crafts. As for my wife, that is how we work together. We release jewelry lines as we make an array of accessories. From earrings to necklaces and bracelets, we do it all as we enjoy creating together. We love what we do since we can create what the market asks for to make a living while being artistic. 

Whatever people ask for, we mostly do, which is why brooches and earrings. The reason why we decided to become artisans is because we saw the opportunity to do new things. I started by making earrings, and I saw that it allowed us to maintain a living. Over time we began making accessories which gave us more to accomplish. 

Luis & Mary - Master Makers of Gourd Accessories

How long does it take to create earrings and brooches? 

Luis: Well, that depends on what we are creating. Earrings can take about two hours to make. Brooches can take two to three hours, depending on how much detail there is. Customer demands are also a factor in how much time an accessory takes to make since some things sell out more than others. Being an artisan means being able to meet deadlines while also selling whatever we can to create. A balance between what we create and the demand is what we aim to achieve.

  Carving Gourd Peacock Earrings      Making Peacock Earrings


What inspires you to create earrings and brooches?

Luis: I have always worked with my hands as a kid. Sometimes people are unsupportive or don’t believe in our work, so it can be hard to feel inspired. What inspires me is whatever I can create, as the accessories' designs come easiest to me. The designs are simple, as there is the freedom to do whatever I or Mary like to create for an audience. 

Raw Gourd Fruit
Raw gourd fruit - not for human consumption.  
Dried gourd
Dried gourd ready for processing. 

Is there a piece of yours that you enjoy most? 

Luis: Since we make so many different types of accessories, it is difficult to pick one. I love to create anything I can get my hands on so people can wear them. I enjoy creating anything involving the rooster the most with my wife due to how much time and detail is put into them. We both have pieces we like, but the rooster brooches and earrings require time and care. Since the brooches are very colorful, they are also the most popular here in Colombia. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing someone else wear the things we created. As artisans, it feels wonderful to know someone can buy something handmade as they support us and our dreams.

Luis pointing to his childhood home.  

What is one thing you hope people think about when they see the pieces you create?

Luis: I hope when people see our work, they see how much time goes into it and who it is for. We hope people see our work is done with much passion and love. We love doing what we do as artisans. We make products that allow people to feel their best. Since our clientele is primarily women, we want to focus on empowering them through the accessories we make. 

For any customer, the support we receive from them has immensely impacted us since they considered buying from us. Women are our muses that flaunt our art, which means they show our passion and love when they go out into the world every day. We aim to satisfy customers so they can look good and feel beautiful. Within our work, we hope women feel empowered by wearing something we crafted. 

Making christmas ornament snowflakes

What is the most difficult aspect of being an artisan?

Luis: We believe the hardest is creating a product that people enjoy. The hardest thing is figuring out what is going to sell the most and what we also enjoy handcrafting. Finding the clientele or market to sell to is challenging since we cannot predict who will buy what. Ensuring that our products are satisfactory and people will like it is still uncertain. For example, people do not appreciate handmade items.  Still, to this day, people say they want good products but are hesitant to support and value the work of artisans. We believe that is an obstacle for all artists.

 Another difficulty is people don’t  understand the process of making handmade accessories. Handmade accessories are not made like other accessories sold in stores. What we do is something different, which is why reaching clientele or the general public sometimes is challenging. We work with colors and materials in which people might not find value. We hope people find value in our work when they buy our creations. That’s what we would like to teach people or at least hope they see in our work. Creating designs is the easiest thing to do, but selling them is the hardest. 

Making peace dove christmas ornaments

How has working with Tulia’s changed your business? 

Luis: Working with Tulia’s, we feel like, “We got this!”. We have been able to generate employment which has been a fantastic experience. When we first met Karen, we remembered her passion for what we made. Her enthusiasm made us want to work with her in the first place. We saw she had the same passion we had when she first laid eyes on the products we showed her, which she said she loved. Our product to her was different and fresh, as she had not seen it before. As we began working with her, we noticed we had different products than other artisans. It felt so amazing as she saw the importance of our art and other artisans, which is why we also wanted to work with her. She had an appreciation for what we created.

In the future, we hope other artisans understand that they can keep going. We hope artisans can find ways to keep pushing forward so others believe in them. Anything is possible when you have people that support you and your work. Trust us when we say people will love the work you do as long as you keep at it. To any artisan out there, we know it can be challenging, but please take each day at a time. There will be a day when your work is recognized. Always remember to work with lots of love. One day you will go far if you keep up with your art! 

 Luis, Karen, and Mary on the Atlantic Coast of Colombia

 Luis, Karen, & Mary at the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. 

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