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Laura Villalvazo

Artisan Organization: Laura Villalvazo

Country: Mexico

“Hi there! I am Laura Villalvazo. "Nature inspires me; the forest has amazed me since I was a child, and contact with natural fibers has allowed me to design organic, aromatic and handmade jewelry.

“I grew up in a forest community, surrounded by important wooded areas such as the Sierra de Tapalpa, del Tigre and Amula, which allowed me to be in contact with this amazing material; the ocoxal, also known as the pine needle. The dry needle-shaped leaf becomes so flexible due to its organic characteristics that it allows us to create an infinity of shapes, and articles of great durability and resistance with a pine scent.

“In my community, there is a group of people that works with different natural fibers such as ocoxal. They share their knowledge from generation to generation, and from those creative hands I learned how to transform ocoxal into extraordinary crafts.

“In this way, this line of inspirational, organic, aromatic and handmade jewelry arose. It is a family project that we started from a small improvised workshop in our home that has allowed us to create wonderful pieces from nature. Entrepreneurship is something that has characterized us as a family; and in each endeavor there have been many surprises. In all the projects, it has been a great experience to see the degree of dedication of my family and how they develop in each role for this project.

“Our main materials are the pine leaf, which is collected directly in the forest when its life cycle has concluded. It is lifted from the ground, selecting only the longest needles, of similar color, thickness and less brittle. To prepare the ocoxa, the needle is cleaned and disinfected; this process makes it flexible and leaves it ready to start designing the piece.

“Creativity and design are essential to work the ocoxal. This material has no limits; it requires a lot of inspiration, patience, dedication and enough practice to perfect the technique. As a result, it allows us to let imagination run wild, exploit creativity and transform it into extraordinary crafts. The dry ocoxal acquires a resistance similar to that of pine wood. When working it, it becomes flexible. It must be woven firmly to form resistant and durable pieces, for this reason it is common to hurt our fingers a little during the process.

“Every endeavor has its difficulties, but if the path is made with love then the stumbles are more enjoyable. When you love what you do, inspiration flows and wonderful things begin to happen. In our country we have forest areas that produce ocoxal, such as the Town of Jalpa, located in the municipality of Chiquilistlán in the state of Jalisco. In recent years the craftsmanship of this material has been gaining presence in the market. It represents a source of income for the inhabitants of that area--mostly women, mothers of families who do not have any type of economic income. This activity serves to improve the quality of life for their families.

“We believe that our culture is full of color and tradition, so we are proud to be involved in preserving and making the activities of our artisans known. I hope to be able to consolidate a social project that allows us to encourage artisan production. Together with my family who encourages me and accompanies me in the different stages of each process, I want to train more women from my community and other communities, providing the opportunity to learn, benefit and carry out their work without harming the environment.”"