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JOSE JUAN GARCIA ALFARO working in his studio. Photograph by Jerome Seliga.

Jose Juan Garcia Alfaro




Jose Juan Garcia Alfaro is an emigrant jeweler, now living in the United States, whose foundations were formed in Mexico City. From his first self-taught creations of bleached chicken bones and tamarind seeds, through his street apprenticeships with the jewelry artisans who sold and made their work on the avenues of Mexico City, until his entrance to the School of Artisans, Alfaro’s journey has been one of dedication and passion for his craft despite his circumstances. He combines Mexican styles and traditions, Art Nouveau, and his own touch to create this particular brand of jewelry.


How did you get your start in jewelry, and how long have you been making it?

I have been making jewelry for almost twenty-eight years. Making jewelry was a way for me to use the industrial materials I had around me from my dad’s work. My dad sometimes worked as a plumber, and there were always pieces of tubes, copper, brass, and wires around. I began to experiment with these materials. Nothing stopped me from starting with my first projects of jewelrymaking. Of course, at this time I didn’t know anything about style, design or technique. But I had a lot of intuition. Apart from my dad’s industrial materials, I would also do things like take the chicken bones from a chicken my family had eaten, clean them and put them in bleach until they were real white. With these bones I would make necklaces. With the seeds of tamarind, I would make earrings. I had just finished middle school, and it occurred to me that I could go out and sell the jewelry I had made—and so I did. I began to sell it outside of the school. I don’t think anyone bought anything from me, but I did like all the attention I received from the girls who admired my artisan work. At this time I began to meet ‘old school’ artists who did not openly share their wisdom and knowledge of their crafts. The only way to learn was by watching them work. I could not ask; I could only watch. After much time, they would give me some ‘tips’—not ‘classes’ but tips—of how to begin to make earrings that would sell. After these street apprenticeships, I taught myself.


What was your experience in the School of Artisans in Mexico City?

After being a jeweler for five years, I finally had the opportunity to go to the School of Artisans in Mexico City. My experience in the School of Artisans taught me how to use my first jewelrymaking tools. At this school, I was learning about metalsmithing. Both the teacher I had and learning jewelry techniques changed my life as a jeweler completely. I never stopped using the original materials that I began with, but through learning and using the correct techniques, I started to make things that people actually wanted to buy.



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