Combining artisanal craftsmanship with artistic productions, M.A is a collection of beautiful, handmade pieces helmed by multidisciplinary artist and Tijuana native Mely Ávila. The pieces, which include wool weavings, clay pieces, t-shirts and special commissions, are created in collaboration with Mexican artisans who specialize in ancestral processes.
While the project is based in Mexico City, its production seasons take place in different communities of Mexico, and are inspired by indigenous traditions, native beliefs and local knowledge. We caught up with Ávila to learn more about how M.A. came to be, and how the traditions and heritage of indigenous México are still essential and formative to its youth culture and creative industry.
Tell us about yourself and your background as a Latina creative.
I was born in Tijuana and I studied Fine Arts in southern Mexico. I’ve also been dedicating my life to cultural management and community work.
What I really love and makes me a passionate creative is to construct ways of working with education, art, and social impact – currently with artisanal methods and ancestral processes.
Why and how did M.A begin?
It started with an idea of conjugating my knowledge with the knowledge of my friends and artisan collaborators.
M.A is a social and collaborative project where education, art, design, social economy, fair trade, crafts, trades and social impact come together.
How and when did you first begin to work with Mexican artisans?
Well, I’ve been directing projects in Mexican communities since 2012, especially regarding digital culture and education. But my work with the state of Oaxaca was through a project about indigenous medicine, where I was invited to direct the artistic photography.
You forge a link with the people and then all things keep flowing.
Which are the techniques and traditions you are supporting and preserving through your work with M.A?
Everything that we do is handmade, and some of the processes are very artisanal and rustic. We work mostly with pottery (red and black clay), textile work, marble, stone and wood.
All of my inspiration comes from Mexican traditions, indigenous cosmovision, local knowledge, and our autochthonous pueblos.
The methods always vary depending on the state and the community.
What are some other ways we can support indigenous artisans and young Latino creatives?
Turn back to see the history and find the magic that is there, that’s a pretty good start. Also if you like to buy crafts, it’s important to value the work and don’t pay less than it’s worth. Supporting projects or initiatives that are genuinely making a social impact is another option, it doesn’t necessarily have to be economic support, you can share or spread the word on your social networks.
For all creative people, my advice is to follow your intuition, trust your creativity and your potential – make things! – until you find your place and your passion. Be encouraged to start projects, and if you don’t know how, seek advice from people who can add to your idea. Be genuine with your processes and be faithful to your people, collaborators or teamwork.
You’re raising funds to bring these artisans to Denver to host workshops on indigenous culture and artisanship. What’s the most exciting thing about it for you and your team?
It would be the first time for them to travel outside Mexico, their first time getting passports, too. And what’s more exciting is to be able to travel to share what you love the most, our cultural heritage and to share our knowledge with more people!
What are the best things that have happened to you and your team since you started this project?
We’ve learned from each other and built our relationship as if we were a family. The work achievements are also incredible, but we have gained friends for a lifetime in this project, and there are no words to explain it. It’s just awesome!