Artisan Organization: Juan Soto
"My full name is Juan Soto Palomino, and I was born in 1976 in Peru's beautiful Quinua district. Here, our houses have a lovely subtlety. Our landscapes are crowned by blue skies and surrounded by unending valleys.
"My path in life has been very tough and I'm proud to have overcome the obstacles in my way. When I was nine, I lost my father. It was a huge loss for our entire family. My mother was left a widow with six children, and I am the next to youngest. Some of my brothers struck out on their own, so my mother gave her all and made a tremendous effort to help us get ahead. As a teen, I took on the responsibility of contributing to my household. I looked for any job I could find to help.
"At the time, conflicts broke out among the local farmers. Together with others in my town, I supported the peacemaking efforts and the organizing of community defense in our historic area.
"I grew up in a town where art is in the very air we breathe. The first thing you notice are the ceramics in the form of churches and animals. The pampas of Ayacucho are historically significant because it was here that Spanish troops were defeated in Peru's struggle for independence. This led to the end of Spain's dominion in South America.
"When I was a boy, I'd play in my cousins' ceramics workshop. They were my first teachers although much of my learning involved observing and practicing with clay and colors. I was curious, creative and wanted to learn new things. In a village full of artists, it was not hard to be caught up in this beautiful art. So, while playing, I created my own designs, decorated and painted them with care.
"I also visited other workshops and the people who saw my ceramics had lovely things to say about my work. They encouraged me to create more figurines and this motivated me a lot. Creating them was fun and I crafted them with love and passion.
"With my art, there are no limits and I can take my creativity as far as I want. I love it! I can give shape to my experiences and surroundings.
"My inspiration is born in my soul, and comes from my heart. My designs arise from the landscapes of my childhood ‚Äî the beautiful Andean countryside, our clear skies, verdant valleys and white cotton clouds.""