There have been hundreds of stories written about the rise and fall of the Sears Empire and I recently lost an entire afternoon reading through several “expert’s” accounts. Maybe I should have been more interested in the many reasons the company failed as I am also trying to radically change course and move my company online. But I was more fascinated by the early days of the 19th century and the society in which these catalog companies released their goods. It’s hard to understand it now, in our world, but the catalog company changed the American psyche. They created a market by sending picture books of goodies to every home in America and these people, who had previously lived in a self-sufficient mode, saw these dancing images and realized that they had wants! Enter the Era of Discontent.
Flash forward to today – we have devolved into a culture of “gotta have” trends and Fast Fashion stores where new styles are introduced every two weeks and the non-sellers are immediately destroyed. What a sad study in hyper-consumer values, and a horrible study of waste. Reading Salvador’s interview in the midst of this study was like stepping off of a roller coaster on to solid ground.
We sat down with Salvador recently and asked him to tell us about his life and growing up in the silver industry.
He began, “I started as many of us started, working as an assistant in my uncle’s workshop. We were called “zorritas” (little vixens) and we started right away learning how to make jump rings from silver wire that was wrapped tightly around a rod and cut with a handsaw. At age 8 I would go home from school, do my homework, and then go to work from 3 to 8 at night. It was the normal thing to do then.”
“My older brother and I set up our own workshop when he was 17 and I was 15 years so old we could earn money to pay for our studies. He studied law and I studied agricultural engineering. My job required moving a lot, which I didn’t want to do with a family, so when my brother moved to Chilpancingo to start his practice I took over and dedicated myself to the workshop and nothing else.”
Salvador has a booth at the weekend silver market, called Tianguis. He works all week to make the jewelry that he brings to his booth to sell in a 5 hour rush of people from all over the world. In all the years I have known him he has offered pretty much the same styles. He’s not stuck in a rut, he has found consistent and timeless designs and has perfected them. His beautiful teardrop necklaces and the love knot rings are always our best sellers.
He continued: “We have been making these designs for many years, literally 47 or 48 years! The knot was the creation of my brother, back when he was still with me. It occurred to him to make a knot with a silver wire.”
Bringing it home:
On one of my earliest trips thru the Saturday Market I stumbled across Salvador’s jewelry and fell in love with the simplicity and purity of his designs. One necklace stood out, and made me think of my cousin, Rhonda. It was an immediate decision to buy every one that he had in stock and I gave the first one to Rhonda. I also named it after her, so whenever I placed an order with Salvador he knew what I meant when I ordered a dozen “Rhonda’s”.
Many years later, Rhonda went with me to Taxco and I drug her thru the weekend market with me. She wandered ahead of me whenever I stopped to make a purchase, then would come back to tell me what she found. Towards the end of the day she came back and was very excited about a booth and the jewelry she saw there. I followed her to Salvador’s booth!
Here’s a picture of Rhonda, and the Rhonda necklace, on the day when they finally met.
I was revitalized earlier this year by a simple quote from Andre Malraux who said; “You have not returned from Hell with empty hands.” Like everyone else, I was struggling with the fear and uncertainties and the forced shutdown of my daily life. I didn’t know what to do, but it seemed like there were only two options: Give up or downshift to the next gear. It was time to go back to basics, set out a new plan, and learn everything I needed know to pull it all back together. I was not returning from Hell without learning something.
The process required an unblinking look at my strengths and weaknesses to see what was needed to rebuild the retail side of my business. And in the face of all the cancelled shows, it all had to be moved online.
Here’s what I had in my toolbox: I love what I do. I love to write. I love my team here and the friends and the artists I work with in Taxco. There are hundreds of photos in my camera and almost as many stories in my head. And I have 15 years of experience selling jewelry.
Thus the new business model was unfurled. Corazon Sterling was reborn with a new look, a new website, a broad and targeted social media strategy, and the slogan: Real Jewelry by Real People.
The rest is falling into place.
Why go to all this effort? Because there are artists in Taxco who have worked their whole lives to learn their trade, and there is an audience of men and women here in the States who are tired of day-long trends and shoddy workmanship. Corazon Sterling offers Real Jewelry made by Real People.