Monday, September 2, 2013

Charms of Cuenca

After almost 3 years of living in Cuenca, the best happening for us has been the people we meet.  The warm welcome of Cuencanas is part of the Latino charm which draws many Americans. In our daily routine, we continue to encounter new people that make our experience even more special.

This happened to us one recent Saturday morning.  While strolling down to La Esquina de las Artes ("The Corner") on Doce de Abril and Agustin Cueva, to purchase the homemade cheese offered each week, we entered one of the stores in the cluster of small businesses.  It just happened to be newly opened and the proprietor/owner was there.

The store (called Andrea Tello), is beautifully arranged and houses an array of jewelry, unlike anything you have probably seen in Cuenca.  It "caught our eye" immediately.  Not knowing this petite, lovely, attractive lady was the owner at first, we began to ask her about the jewelry.

She introduced herself as the designer and producer of all the fine jewelry we were gazing at with great interest.   After listening to the story behind this beautiful work of art, we discovered indeed, a beautiful gem:  Andrea Tello.

 Andrea Tello

I was drawn to a particular case of wondrously crafted earrings.  We begin to ask Andrea about these pieces.  This is when she shared her passion to preserve the culture and history of the indigenous people of this region.  Each piece she has created, represents flowers in which the indigenous women have sown into their dresses.

Below is a picture of four sets of earrings representing different kinds of flowers with special meanings.  Again, these flowers are sown into the women's unique, colorful indigenous clothing.

The first set of earrings is a design of a full flower representing a woman in the first part of her life. She has knowledge in natural medicines, respect for the flowers and their usage, and religion.  Many of the indigenous use the flowers in their daily living whether color for clothing, medicines, aromatics, etc.

The second set of earrings is a design representing the woman where the husband has migrated to the USA or Spain to work.  She is left behind to raise the children and handle all the family affairs including agriculture. Many of these women experience hard labor working in the fields in order to raise their families and preserve their lives.  They have a tough life dwelling in the Andes. 

In the third set of earrings shown above, the half flower represents one who is no longer single - she does not belong to herself but to her husband.  She is fine with this and has respect for her husband. 

The last set represents the flower meaning the woman had been raised with a little more money due to the father having migrated to work in another country.  Most of them had finished high school, can read and write, having  had more exposure to the world.

Andrea was born into a world and family of jewelry and is a 3rd generation jewelry lover.  Her grandmother, Imelda Cordova,  and parents, Miriam Guilen and Luis Tello, owned a jewelry store on Gran Colombia for 30 years called Joyeria Guillen.  While they did not craft jewelry themselves, they gained great experience through the years in purchasing stones and gems of all kinds.  She smiles with a twinkle in her eye, as she states her childhood includes growing up in the world of emeralds, rubies, and diamonds.
 Sue Gaither, Andrea Tello, Ma. Caridad Tello (Andrea's sister) & Miriam Guilen

Her gift of art, coupled with crafting this unique jewelry opened up a world for Andrea that has made her work known around the world.  The heart behind her work is as astounding as the pieces themselves.  At present, Andrea has employed 14 families in Cuenca, who have been trained by her to craft her designs. 

Until about five years ago, Andrea crafted and manufactured all of the designs herself.  But due to other countries now wanting to purchase her jewelry, it led her to open up a door for Cuencana families to be involved.

She is happy that she now can include other people in her endeavor, as it gives them an opportunity for employment.  It also gives them a sense of pride in their community and as well as in their work.  She takes about 3 to 6 months to train her employees at her home.  There they are also given the material to work with and asked to sign a "Comercio Justo" Agreement.  This states they will not copy her designs for resale.  She's had good experience with her employees and is honored to have these families work with her.

Andrea's first recognition for her work came in 2010.  One week before the event was to be held, someone told her of a competition hosted by UNESCO in Quito.  

 UNESCO (The United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization) is a specialized agency of the United Nations.  Its purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication.  They give awards to and for handicrafts in countries around the world.  

In 2010's competition, Ecuador's Ministry of Industries and Productivity (MIPRO) participated with their entries among which Andrea's jewelry was presented.  Bolivia, Peru, and Venezuela were also countries represented at this event.  The entries included crafts of textiles, ceramics, wood, natural fibers and jewelry.  

Andrea received UNESCO's Award of Excellence for jewelry among fifteen, who were recognized in this competition.  This recognition was awarded to Andrea for excellence, authenticity, innovation, commercial potential, respect for the environment, and social responsibility.

After this first recognition from the prestigious UNESCO, she was invited to another premiere event in Lima Peru, where she was awarded as one of the best artisans in the country of Ecuador
In September of 2011, Andrea was invited to Paris, France to participate in the largest designer show in Europe.  At this show, major companies from around the world come to purchase products.  At the end of the event, Andrea had sold everything she brought to the show along with orders for more jewelry.    Also, there were movie producers and designers at this event and she was given the opportunity for further exposure to her unique creations.

After returning from Paris, she returned to Cuenca only to immediately return to Paris in November of 2011 to participate in the 10th Anniversary of Diversity Cultural in the World.  This event was hosted by and in the UNESCO Building in Paris.  This is the most prestigious affair since only the Prime Ministers from around the world were invited to attend - it was not open to the public.  Because of this honor, she now has received open doors for her jewelry in other countries.

In a whirlwind return to Cuenca, she was then invited the next month by the mayor of Jerusalem and traveled to Israel to give an exhibit there.  Andrea's collection was also included in an exhibition in the famous Lourve in Paris, France as pictured below.

In 2012,  the highest honor came for Andrea when she was named as one of the five best artisans in the world.  

There are other events Andrea has participated in since 2010, but now her traveling days have slowed tremendously.  She states that since her jewelry is now known in other countries and selling, she wanted to fulfill her dream to open a store in the city of Cuenca - a city she so loves. Again, her passion is to preserve the culture and history of Cuenca regarding the indigenous people - especially the four remaining:  Cholas, CaƱarejas, OtavaleƱas, and Zuletas.

Andrea also has a beautiful family - her husband, Pedro, and son, Pedro Daniel.  She wants to be here for them. Her son is now 8 years old and has already shown a unique "eye" to the world of creativity - as he likes to draw.  Andrea says though he is surrounded in the world of jewelry, he's still "all boy," for he loves sports!

Please go by her store located at "La Esquina de las Artes " on Doce de Abril and Agustin Cueva.   The store is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 2pm and 3pm to 7pm; and Saturdays, 10am to 6pm.  She currently has a sale in her store of some beautiful pieces with a 20% and 40% discount.
And... if you mention to her that you read about her store on this blog, she will give you an additional 15% except for the new designs.

 Andrea and Sue

You will enjoy seeing her unique store and gorgeous jewelry creation.  Best of all, you will enjoy meeting God's lovely creation:  Andrea Tello.