Artisan: Iago

Wire wrapped earrings in nature shapes -- sun, caterpillar, dragonfly

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Iago is someone my husband would call “uma figura” — which roughly translates to “what a character”. Iago is a crazy-talented 29 year-old who has been creating artisanal pieces since he was 14 years old. His Dad is an artist, and learned it right at his Daddy’s knee. Iago splits his time between Arembepe and Salvador — and the Arembepe influence is obvious in his work. Arembepe is a famous hippie colony about an hour from Salvador that in the 60s and 70s attracted a number of celebrities, including Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger. That relaxed and freewheeling lifestyle shows up in the many types of bongs and pipes he sells in addition to his jewelry. I can see the Arembepe influence in the somewhat…

Artisan: Maicon

Wire wrapped earrings and bracelets with blue, turquoise, green, purple and black stones

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Maicon is a guy with a vision. When we met Maicon he was neatly dressed in a blue polo and khaki shorts (very non-baiano, actually). The 33-year-old artist started making jewelry when he was 17, and his years and years of experience are obvious in the pieces he makes. Of all of the artisans we work with, his pieces are the most intricate — bending and weaving the wire together into arches or half moons and then hanging a Chapada Diamantina sourced gemstone stone from that arch or moon.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Artisan: Manoel

Wire wrapped earrings in green stone, blue stone, and brown stone

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“Luck favors the prepared” definitely applies to how we met Manoel. My husband was heading out for the day and Manoel was walking towards the Orla (boardwalk) with his board of jewelry and my husband stopped him. He tells me later he “liked Manoel’s energy” and just had a hunch we’d like his pieces. Of course, this is all happening on the street unbeknownst to me. A few minutes later my phone rings, and it’s my husband saying “hey, I found this guy, he has some cool stuff. Can you come down to the street?” I grab my wallet and go down to street. My husband is there with Manoel, a very tall, lanky guy with dreads and glasses that have seen better days drinking…

Artisan: Helenice

Hand crafted capim dourado (golden grass) bracelets and necklaces by Brazilian maker Helenice

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Capim durado, or what is known as “golden grass”, is a type of plant that is unique to northeastern Brazil and has been used for years to make jewelry and other items. It’s unusualness makes it popular with the tourists, so there are lots of artisans that sell golden grass handcrafts, but not everyone does it as uniquely or as well as Helenice. My husband is the one that gets all of the credit for “finding” Helenice — he was in Praça da Se (close to the historic center of Salvador, the Pelourinho), knew that I wanted to find someone with not-your-everyday-capim-durado, saw her stuff, and stopped to talk to her. He liked her and what he saw, and I was out of the country,…

Artisan: Edivaldo

Wire and String Earrings in green, yellow, blue, and red

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The “opportunity” that comes with buying one-of-a-kind or one-of-a-few items is that when you find something really cool, it’s hard to get more. You have to hope you run into that artisan again or can find someone doing something similar. A couple of years ago, in one of my evening-street-vendor-buying binges, I got these super-cool hoop earrings made of coiled wire and string. I loved them, and then when I wore them back in the States everyone kept commenting on them. I looked and I looked, and couldn’t find the same woman that I bought them from. This is where Edivaldo comes in. One day while waiting for the bus with my husband, Edivaldo walks by with this wares to sell on his way to…

Artisan: Dinho

Mestre Dinho from Dinho Artes with his incredible xequerê instruments

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Instrument-maker Mestre Dinho is a fixture in the Pelourinho, the historic center of Salvador that serves as a home to the majority of the music, dance, and art in the city. In the Pelourinho, Dinho has shop where he sells a wide array of instruments, from congas and atabaques to xequeres and berimbaus. Entering into his shop is a bit like entering into a foreign country for a non-musician like me, but my husband the percussionist becomes like a kid in a candy store. My husband and Mestre Dinho are old friends, so when we go we sit down, I get to ask all of my non-musician questions about the instruments, listen to the two of them argue about the difference between a xequerê and…

Artisan: Douglas

Macrame and stone and wire-wrapped necklace, bracelets, and earrings from Brazilian jewelry maker Douglas.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We met Douglas one winter night just as he was wrapping up selling on “the Orla” (boardwalk) and getting ready to head home for the night. There are LOTS of artisans on “the Orla”, but the majority of them sit there all day long, all selling the same items as the person sitting next to them. But Douglas’ items different — he has many of the same classes of items, but done in a different way. Macrame necklace? Check. But, macrame necklace with a color-coordinated polished stone from Chapada Diamantina. Stone necklace? Check? But, a polished stone that is a wrapped in wire to mimic the vivid Bahian sun. He does things differently, and does really beautiful work. In addition to this more traditional craftwork,…

Artisan: Meri

Brazilian maker Meri with her hand crafted coconut shell earrings

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Meri is a jewelry-maker who has been making and selling jewelry for 34 years. She has a stand near Mercado Modelo in the lower city where she greets tourists with a smile. While she sells a wide variety of items, ranging from leather necklaces and bracelets to flip flops to feathered earrings, what drew me to her were her earrings made of coconut shells. There are many, many Brazilian artisans that sell coconut shell earrings — after all the shells are quite plentiful (sustainable art, FTW) — but few decorate them the way she does. I love how she combines the coconut shell with grasses or strings/cords to create a wide variety of looks.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Artisan: Bira Santos

Musician and Percussionist Bira Santos with his CDs

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Bira Santos grew up in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil in the religious tradition of candomblé. His mother was a high priestess (Mãe de Santo) in the religion and he himself was initiated into the religion more than 20 years ago. He is currently the head musician, or Alabé, at his candomblé house, Ilê Axé Omim J’Oba. The term “alabé” means that he has achieved the highest level in drumming and leading of rituals in the candomblé religion and signifies deep experience and authority. Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian religion that originated in Salvador that is closely related to the west african Yoruba tradition, but a tradition of its own. The ritualistic ceremonies contain highly percussive drumming, songs, and dance that have shaped the musical soundscape of Brazil,…