Thursday, May 31, 2018

Terry Baumgart ... blame it on the dolls!

Terry Baungart with dolls, shirt from
Zipiajo, a collective that will be at the Feria this year.

Forty years ago Terry Baumgart bought three simple cloth dolls in Pátzcuaro. It wasn’t an unusual purchase. She was always decorating her California home with Mexican pottery, textiles, or toys purchased on her many explorations of Mexico, which started primarily after graduate school with two years of informal studying of Spanish and culture throughout Mexico.

Her Mexico experiences prompted a desire to retire in Mexico, which she and her husband did about ten years ago. They wound up in the village of Zirahuén, near Pátzcuaro on a stunning lake which is often called "the mirror of the Gods.” A local legend says that the lake was formed by the tears of a kidnapped maiden, but Terry has shed few tears during her years in Michoacán.

"I remember being worried about being bored in my retirement,” Terry says. 
An interesting thing happened soon after I moved to Mexico. I have three simple cloth dolls that I thought were from Pátzcuaro. Fast forward to nine years ago when I moved to Zirahuén, and was introduced to the president of the local artisans’ group. She came to my house and I showed her the dolls. She immediately told me who had made them so many years ago and that they were from Zirahuén!”

That synchronicity accelerated Terry’s interest in Mexican folk art and about eight years ago, she celebrated her birthday by attending the Feria Maestros del Arte. Her husband told her to buy herself a gift. 

"Well, I certainly bought more than one gift! I was so excited by the incredible arts offered at the Feria that I introduced myself to Marianne Carlson, the Feria founder. And, again the next year  As I learned more about the Feria and how incredibly respectful it treats the artisans, I just knew I had to be part of it. I offered to help out and was eventually offered the volunteer position of Michoacán coordinator. My life has been so exciting and fulfilled ever since! I never have to worry about being bored with all the Feria offers me.

Hi-fired ceramics by Guadalupe Garcia Rios
"My volunteer work for the Feria has provided me with the satisfaction of seeing artisans' lives changed for the better right before my eyes! My first "aha" moment was early on when a young artisan from Michoacán told me on a Sunday after the Feria that he had never had so much money in his pocket in his life!
Then I saw how the contacts he made began to provide him with year-round work and I saw his humble lifestyle improve as he built a nice house with plumbing and on and on. That is only one example as there have been so many positive, transformative stories.

"I can't begin to express how much my work with the Feria 

provides me with a real sense of purpose in my life." 

Embroidery work by Teofila Servin Barriga 

"And, of course, the interaction with the artisans, the many friendships that have grown with them, is never-ending. I receive lots of "gracias" from them, but I don't really think they realize the extent of the reciprocity that is involved in our relationships. I receive so much more than I give. 

BTW, I don't want to leave out the three important people who help to ensure that the Michoacán Feria experience is a success every year. Two artisans, Guadalupe Garcia Rios and Teofila Servin Barriga, are volunteer artisans who assist me year round in accessing resources from our state artisan agency and provide me with the perspective and advice that only an artisan can provide. In addition, they help with phone calls, artisan meetings and whatever else is needed. (The work of both volunteers will be shown at the Feria this year.  More about these artisans here.)

"Alice Garcia, a California native who resides in Michoacán, is our volunteer photographer who also provides assistance before and during the Feria each year. In addition to providing many of the official photos of the invited artisans, she accompanies me on artisan search trips, annual trips to Uruapan during Easter week and comes on the bus with the artisans to the Feria. During the Feria, she provides translation, problem-solving and much more! Guadalupe, Teofila and Alice are a fabulous team! 

"In summary, it is an understatement to say that I feel blessed.  Our Michoacán team, the fabulous Feria volunteer staff in Jalisco and the awesome artisans of Mexico are the perfect recipe for a fulfilling and joyful retirement."

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