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Teodoro Melendez and Family

Artisan Organization: Teodoro Melendez and Family

Country: Peru

"I was born in 1924 in Trujillo, known as the 'city of eternal spring.' None of my parents were artisans, in fact dad was an archaeologist and mom a homemaker. However my artistic formation came from my dad during his work as an archaeologist in pre-Hispanic sites, and later as the curator of a museum. That's when I became inspired to craft jewelry with designs and motifs unique to ancient Peru. It has been my passion and my life ever since then.

"It all actually began as a hobby, but with the passing of time it became something more serious for me, especially after reading the books by Julio C. Tello. I learned so much from them about my country's history and the different cultures that once made part of it. I mainly take my inspiration from these books to design my jewelry and select the gemstones that are a better for them.

"One of my most cherished moments was when I had a small workshop and my children, Carlos and Alicia, were with me while I was cutting gems by hand. Then we put them through a little machine to perfect the contours. Mine was a small workshop and we could not afford the larger, pricier machines.

"In my free time I enjoy swimming, soccer and basketball. I would describe my work as having a strong pre-Hispanic essence that is allowed to be sold outside of Peru. Reason being that the original pieces are obviously considered patrimony of the state and their sale is banned. That's why I love the idea that foreigners can get to share part of our history through my designs, where I try to replicate both metals and gems.

"Through my collections I try to convey the value of our cultures, and I think people will appreciate the work. It includes hammering, stamping, chisel work and melting – techniques we've been using for quite a while now, just like the Peruvian silversmiths of yore. I've exhibited my work in museums and galleries in Lima.

"The biggest challenge I have faced is starting from zero, without the support of either the banks or other financial institutions. Little by little, we've grown since then and have become a sustainable family enterprise.

"I would like to say that each of my designs represents a lifetime of dedication to the promotion of pre-Hispanic art for the newer generations to appreciate.""