Colombian Candy

Mercedes Salazar
Bees. Cherries. Monkeys. And yes, corn on the cob. Mercedes Salazar is introducing me to the design process at her Bogotá workshop, starting here with row after row of whimsical baubles her creative brain has conjured. Each palm tree, toucan, or evil eye, delicately handwoven from fibers of the Colombian wilds, is the beginning of an imaginative romp into earrings, a tote, or tableware. I'm in a candy store of color, and the confections almost leap out of their glass jars, vying for a place in her next riotous creation. I dip into a jar of jolly pompoms. Here, too, are spiders. Stars. Lillies of the Valley. Fish bones. The world in a closet.
But this is just the beginning. On the fourth floor rooftop, promising skeletal structures are being fabricated. On the second floor, I see women completing the vision. Finally, we head to Mercedes' office in between, which she has turned into a cozy lunch spot for Indian curry and conversation.
Artisan partners from El Dorado Edit
Ibu artisan partners from El Dorado Edit, Juan Pablo Gomez Angel and Juan Sebastian Rivera Bustos, accompany me to Mercedes' atelier on a day exploring artisan work in Bogotá.

It's here where we dive into the passion behind this production. Mercedes reflects on her many years working with the indigenous people of Colombia, rendering their skills into scalable product: iraca palm weaving of Curití, crochet from the Wayúu community, straw weaving from Zenú artisans, werregue palm weaving of the Wounaan Nonam community.

Over lunch, I realize that Mercedes' lighthearted designs belie a deep reservoir of soulful connection to the people who craft them, their land, their future. She speaks modestly, thoughtfully. Although a celebrated designer with a global brand, she really wants only to replace herself with a light upon women whose own indigenous designs must come to center stage.

As I leave, Mercedes gifts me with three pairs of her knock-out earrings. Back home, I cannot walk one block with these party animals on my lobes and not encounter a stream of raves from total strangers. The Ibu team insisted we must offer them. And so, after months in the making, they are here—for the bold ones of you.

And what have I learned from my new friend? I've learned that whimsy, when crafted by an honest hand with the fibers of the earth, can become magic. That bumble bees and cat whiskers, however fey, may yet be the craft of change.

All my best,