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"This inspired me to focus on a project of faithful reproductions, in the hopes it would diminish the demand for original pieces."
"My name is Pablo Pérez Vera; I was born in Mexico City. My father worked in the graphics arts, and my mother was a high school teacher. I left school in my second year of high school to help my family. I am a self-taught ceramic artisan and I began to reproduce pre-Hispanic works in 1973, when I joined the workshops of Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH, a government-funded institute dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Mexican culture). I was selected to join the INAH's team because of my interest and skills as a ceramicist. I learned there to make faithful reproductions of original pre-Hispanic pieces. I worked at the INAH for twenty years; eventually occupying the position of general coordinator.
"Up to 1983, my motivation to work was to learn new techniques and learn about my country's great history. In 1984, I was invited to Nicaragua to teach street children for six months, sponsored by the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security and Well-Being. During this time, two Spanish ceramists taught me how to build a kiln and I taught them some of my techniques. Through them, I met a priest who had managed to collect some pre-Hispanic pieces from Somoto, northern Nicaragua.
"In August 1985 I returned to Nicaragua and stayed for three and a half years. During my time there, I set up a ceramic workshop, built kilns of different sizes and began to teach. I also did some prospect work regarding the area's different ceramic materials. When I was there, I came upon many archeological treasures belonging to private collections, which soon were lost due to economic hardships or theft. Sadly, I found out the priest's collection had also been stolen, due to the illegal traffic of archeological pieces.
"This inspired me to focus on a project of faithful reproductions, in the hopes it would diminish the demand for original pieces. The premise was to offer connoisseurs high quality replicas. This project soon evolved with the intention of promoting and rescuing our pre-Hispanic treasures; as well as assisting institutes in the safekeeping of ancient artifacts. We joined them in the fight against the illegal traffic of authentic pieces through the reproduction of faithful replicas including color, shape, texture and patina.
"Our work is recognized by the INAH; we signed an agreement with them which authorizes us to replicate pieces, which must bear the number 1.340 from the National Registrar of Authorized Reproductions. This number guarantees our products are faithful replicas of genuine artifacts.
"We work with clay from the state of Oaxaca in order to make the dyes we use for our work; we make black, brown, gray, maroon and red pigments. We use iron oxides and other natural elements that assure the quality of our products.
"In 1994 I was invited to Guatemala to assist an NGO that was setting up ceramic workshops in the province of Chichicastenango. I had the good fortune to visit the country's Anthropology Museum, where I saw their magnificent Maya treasures. Some farmers also offered me 10 original Maya artifacts – they wanted $500 US for them!
"The following year I had to close down my workshop due to my country's economic crisis. However, and thanks to friends and government grants, I was able to reopen after six months. FONART, a government agency that promotes handicrafts has also sponsored my work, and invited me to give a lecture in Venezuela on 'Pre-Hispanic Reproductions as an Alternative to the Theft and Illegal Traffic of Cultural Treasures.'"
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