Meet the Artisan

Angel Aguilar Nicolas

We are a lapidary workshop. We are distinguished for working with obsidian rock in original ways, both in medium and small figures, as well as sculpture and abstract creations. When I was 14 years old, I was in my second year of Junior High in a very poor school in Oztotipac, Estado de Mexico, close to the Teotihuacan pyramids, where I was born. One day my classmates and I went to a bathroom that was located behind a corn field, when all of a sudden a car came near us, everything happen really fast but I remember I just heard “That is the car of a politician” and the school bullies ran into it and completely destroyed it, so I decided to join them and give it one last kick that cost me a huge punishment that marked my life as an artisan.

Our great prank will not be unpunished, next day the owner of the car came to claim the damages, realizing that I had participated, because I was wearing new shoes, I was almost blamed for the whole damage but my classmates confessed. Fear arise when the school called to a parents reunion. I was certain that my mom will not attend because I did not let her know, but to my surprise she find out about the reunion and punished me with a stick, a common punishment in that time.

My mom`s discipline was not only physical, but I remember her telling me “You behave like a man when you destroyed that car, so now you will have to work like a man”. Next day was December 12th, and I went looking for a job with a friend of my dad with the hope that he gave me a cleaning or a water carrier position, because I used to work in a construction with him. He knew that I was in need of repairing the damage that I had caused so he said “I have a little artesanias (Mexican folk art) workshop”, so I gladly accepted the position and started working next day, after the Virgen de Guadalupe festivities.

He taught me to carve and paste the pieces. After 6 months of learning I took my brother, then a cousin and later on my whole family was working with obsidian stone. One day I went with my cousin to Jalisco, we had the intention to see a person that sell obsidian stone, he usually took 3 days to get it, but after 2 weeks of waiting my cousin did not want to wait any longer and looked for person to lent us money to come back to Oztotipac. He lent us the money in exchange of obsidian work, that project gave me the opportunity to stay in Tequila for 3 years, where I met my wife Estela Real Leal.

Afterwards the state government opened a school workshop, where I got hired to teach obsidian work for 2 years, I got students from different villages; Navajas, Magdalena, Tequila, San Marcos, and La lobera where the obsidian caves are located and where many of the obsidian workshops of the state are.

After that position I found a partner, he was responsible of the workshop and I of the work. We functioned well and we dedicated ourselves only to the making of little frogs, turtles and archeological duplications. It was fine, however, we only created the same stuff and my income was low, so once again my career had a turn over. One day a sculptor came to learn how to work with obsidian stone, so in just one day I taught him what I knew and just a month after he invited me to see his creations. He gave me a painting as a gratitude for what I taught him. His pieces were beautiful and abstract, so I wanted to learn from his style and for that reason I decided to move to Tapalpa, Jalisco. 8 months later he asked me to work for him, I made the creations and he finished them with polisher and lacquer. He paid me for the pieces and also gave me 10% of the sale price. Somehow this took all my time and limited the creations that I was making.

Little by little my wife and I built our workshop, we created pieces that were sent to my family in Oztotipac, they polished and finished them, but later on we completed the process and my wife was in charge off the polishing and completion. With the hope of growing our business we found new techniques with sandpaper, equipment, and timing to the point where we shortened our polishing timings for 4 days to only 1 day, which decreased our costs and increased our sells. We moved to different parts of the state, and we moved back to Oztotipac when my mother passed away, then we went to Nayarit. Somehow I missed Tapalpa, but we knew that we wanted to grow and avoid the city, so we came to Tlajomulco, San Juan Evangelista, Jalisco, were we live happily in a landscape of crops and lakes.

Currently, our main target is overseas. We create pieces with the shapes that nature offers us in the obsidian stones, somehow I feel connected to the rocks and they let me know the shape that they will have. In dreams I have seen the figures that they are supposed to have, I give them life and movement. I have learned and felt that they have a soul and spirit. I developed my own style of “abstract sculpture”, my wife helps me polishing and finishing each piece of jewelry, she complements me and completes half of this trade of great creativity and unique expression.

Angel Aguilar Nicolas collection

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