Claudia Ramirez grew up in a household surrounded with artisan products made from Michoacán.
“My house had a lot of cantera.”
Cantera is a type of stone that comes from volcanic rock and that is mined in various regions of Mexico and Central America. What makes cantera so valuable is how easy it is to carve. Cantera can be found in various types of architecture around Mexico including churches, doorways, fountains, and fireplaces.
Inspired by her childhood home, Claudia decided to launch her own company in April 2019.
“I grew up with this type of artisan craftwork. We had piñas (pineapples) and cantaritos de agua (small water jugs),” Claudia said.
Her business, known as Mamai, is unique from other artisan shops because they use a wide variety of patterns, colors, and textures to create traditional Mexican products.
The brand is playful, but still manages to pay tribute to centuries-old traditions.
For example, while Mexican molcajetes are typically made from volcanic stone that is similar to cantera, they aren’t usually colorful, why is why Mamai’s products stand out from the rest. They do not shy away from vibrant colors and patterns.
In fact, during a trip to Puerto Vallarata, Claudia discovered colorful molcajetes, which caught her attention and led her to wonder about their origin.
Serendipitously, she found out that the molcajetes were created in her home state of Michoacán by the Purépecha artisans.
“I didn’t know who they were growing up. I saw some of the artisan work when we visited the pueblos mágicos like Pátzcuaro, but I had never spoken to the artisans directly,” Claudia said.
After falling in love with the designs, Claudia decided to partner with the Mexican artisans to create products for her family and friends.
At first, she started small—only creating two or three designs for molcajetes. But eventually, it didn’t take long to start selling to customers outside of her network.
In fact, the designs became so popular on Instagram, she gained over 14,000 followers in less than a year.
While Claudia is proud to partner with the artisans, she wants people to understand that her business is primarily focused on supporting the Purépecha people and their work, especially during COVID-19.
“I’m very worried because they live from this work and sometimes they don’t have enough to eat.” Claudia said.
As a precaution to COVID-19, the market in Michoacán was closed for Semana Santa (Holy Week), which seriously affected the artisans’ business.
“Now they can’t sell [products] and they don’t have money,” Claudia said.
Although people are less likely to shop during this time, Claudia is determined now more than ever to help the Mexican artisans get the support they need.
And while she understands that some of the products she sells might seem like less of a necessity and more of a luxury, she wants people to consider the stories behind the craftwork and the Purépecha artisans.
“The pineapple made of barro (baked clay) took three and a half weeks to make. Each little leaf is handmade,” Claudia said.
In addition to decorative pieces, Mamai also sells servingware, water pitchers, trays, mugs, flower vases, and more.
Now more than ever, Claudia feels a serious responsibility to help the Purépecha artisans.
“I’m worried about them. The artisans don’t understand what’s happening and they are scared. We have to support our Mexican artisans,” Claudia said.
Mamai ships all over the United States. To place an online order, send them a DM.
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