In Memoriam: Oaxaca Filigree Jeweler Juan Manuel Garcia

Juan Manuel Garcia was, deservedly, a Grand Master of Oaxaca Folk Art. His filigree sterling silver craftsmanship was unparalleled. He died on Monday, January 4, 2021 at age 77. I spoke at length with his son Jose Jorge Garcia Garcia on Tuesday via WhatsApp to express my sadness and condolences as soon as my friend Kalisa shared the news with me. Jose Jorge did not mention the cause of his dad’s death.

Maestro Juan Manuel Garcia Esperanza showing us the book he’s in

What he did say was that he would miss him immensely! They were father-son and co-workers, sharing studio space for decades. “He was my friend and my mentor,” Jose Jorge said. ‘It’s very hard to be in this studio without him.

Maestro Juan Manuel at his workbench

Juan Manuel Garcia loved his work. He loved Oaxaca. He won numerous honors for not only his intricate filigree silversmithing, but for his skill as a Noche de los Rabanos radish carver. He took away top honors for 18 consecutive years!

A Los Danzantes sculpture in sterling silver filigree by Don Juan Manuel

I’ve visited the studio for years and took these images in January 2019. Tucked down an alley in the La Noria neighborhood, the workshop is an old fashioned, old-timey affair of scrap metal, semi-precious stones, sterling silver rods. The metal is worked with a propane-fired flame used for soldering and a hammer. Each curlicue is fashioned by hand. There are no OSHA-type regulations here. Everything is created from memory and inspiration.

A box of parts, pearls, gemstones and glass
Left to right: Sam, Gloria, Michele, Jose Jorge, Back: Tom, Kalisa

We went to visit in January 2020 on a mission. Doña Gloria from Teotitlan del Valle needed some gold filigree repair work done. My friends Sam and Tom from Columbus, Ohio, were visiting and they came along, too. Kalisa, who is part of Doña Gloria’s family in the village, had a special order to pick-up. None of us could resist another pair of beautiful Oaxaca earrings.

To see and/or buy these handmade earrings, click HERE. There are three pairs.

This sterling silver filigree horse-drawn carriage is an award-winner
The alleyway leading to the jewelry-making workshop
Hand-in-hand, leaving the studio

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