By Aracely Lazcano
The pieces of jewelry that the students of Elza Crespo design are not only unique, but each of them holds the sparkle of its own special story. Crespo, is a communications and graphic design instructor from the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juarez (UACJ), who leads a combined effort in our sister city to teach women living in impoverished areas to transform their lives through jewelry design.
Since last October, and as part of the Amor por Juarez activities, the program “Uniting Our Families” or “Uniendo Nuestras Familias”, aims to help 1,200 women residing in 53 Colonias in the outskirts of the city.
Most of the time, the students have a rough concept of what they want to craft and it is through Crespo’s expertise that they learn to define their creative process by not only visualizing a concept, but by turning it into a reality. “I help them to develop their creativity and transform an idea into a piece of art,” she said in an exclusive interview with The Ave Avenue.
An artisan jewelry designer herself, Crespo is training over 130 volunteers to give a new meaning to what some would consider, household garbage, into breathtaking necklaces, earrings, and cuffs. Their hope is to spread through other underprivileged neighborhoods to share their skills with more women.
The program extends over a four-week period, at one three-hour course per week, it was initially funded by The Arts and Culture Institute of Chihuahua (ICHICAI). ”They bring their own material, anything that can be re-purposed is used in the class, from empty metal cans, broken pieces of wood, computer discs or paper to seeds like corn, beans, or lentils.”
One of our biggest achievements is that the participants can help themselves and their families by selling their works. Additionally, they also improve their moral and civic values by getting pride on becoming creative. “It has helped them to build their self-esteem and also explore new ideas. Some have become very imaginative and had experimented by combining their recycled material with papier-mâché,” the instructor added.
Although the program needs funding to reach its goal, for now the participants are trained to use household items instead of specialized tools. ”We teach them to work with their husband’s or neighbor’s tools because when they have a clear idea of what they want to create, anything can be of help.”
Some of the collections have been included in the Time Allegory Exhibit presented in several museums across the border, including the Chamizal History and Anthropology Museum, the National Institute of Fine Arts (INBA), and the UACJ library among others.
For now, Crespo is very pleased with the accomplishments, in particular because they are diverting the negative perception to something positive. “Ciudad Juarez is considered as a gateway city with no culture of its own. We want to show the opposite, we have a beautiful culture and hundreds of proud and creative women,” she concluded.
Photographed by Peter Svarzbein