an interview from Taxco

by Gabrielle Stodd

Part II

please click here for part I

Antonio Pineda tells of having 85 silversmiths working in his taller. Each of those smiths in turn had 3-4 assistants. He had a large store overlooking Santa Prisca.
Guests in his store would never see more than one example of each design on display.

People from all around the world were purchasing Antonio designs. He was regularly commissioned to create special pieces for a single individuals.

During those days, Antonio was a designer. He estimates that he created about 10 new designs each month. He would work out construction details with his silversmiths and then create cardboard mock-ups from which silver prototypes were often made. During these early phases of design, any problems that the piece might have in relation to its articulation on the body were identified and solutions found. (For example, the Birdcage Necklace required extra hinges to allow the wires to lie flat on the wearer's neck.)

Antonio Pineda sitting at his desk with some of his silver work

Antonio Pineda sitting at his desk with a model wearing some of his silver work,
 circa 1950's-60's.

The Maestro, then and now.

"X’s & O’s" Bracelet
X's & O's" Bracelet, Antonio Pineda, ca. 1950's. Appears to be repoussage,
 but is actually made with a silver technique developed by Don Antonio.

Antonio Pineda's X's & O's bracelet is a personal favorite. How delightful to learn that it is also a favorite of Don Antonio's!

Don Antonio also debunked two ideas I had about this marvelous bracelet. What were those misconceptions? One, that  it is a piece created in repoussage and two, that it is a design inspired by the commonly used symbols for kisses, (x) and hugs (o).

This Antonio piece is the result of a construction method created by the Maestro and first employed by his silver workers. The name of this method roughly translated into English  is "assembly" or "assembled."

Antonio Pineda with X's & O's bracelet, a favorite of his.

Maestro Pineda explaining assemblada technique. A silver smith process somewhat similar to building a box.

A piece made in "assembly" is essentially built in the same manner as a box. The design is broken down into its various planes and the planes are each cut out of the silver sheet. In this case, Don Antonio explained, the shapes to be cut were those of the two x's with silver tabs on the sides. The tabs are folded over and the pieces are then soldered into a single seamless whole. The end result is (in some instances) much like the feeling and look created by repoussage. This technique , however, allows for greater efficiency . It also allows the silversmith to work the silver into many different planes of silver, each of which can unite at a sharp angle.

Maestro Pineda drawing out shapes that would have been cut in silver to create X's & O's bracelet.

The Maestro at work.

The design inspiration for this bracelet is an early Aztec symbol used to indicate where gold is located. Don Antonio shared a catalogue from the 1953 National Silver Competition that had graphics with this symbol included. The Aztec symbol has the x and spheres banded by an outer circle. Brilliantly, Maestro Pineda has revised the elements of the symbol into component parts and in this manner arrived at his Aztec Symbols Bracelet.

Opening page from the Catalogue to the 1953 National Silver Competition or Fair. Aztec symbol included in graphic design.

Detail rendition of Aztec symbol used to indicate location of gold and the inspiration for X's & O's design.

After speaking with Don Antonio, we noticed the same Aztec symbol 
incorporated in this wonderful circa 1940's Aztec Symbols Bracelet 
by Hector Aguilar

X's & O's Bracelet, fully open
Perhaps after speaking with Don Antonio, this piece is more accurately named as Antonio Pineda's "Aztec Symbols".

"O'Keefe Bracelet", Hector Aguilar, ca. 1940's-50’s. According to Don Antonio, 
this is a Valentin Vidaurreta design. Given the similarity in design and 
close relationship between Maestros Vidaurreta and Pineda, we couldn't help
 wondering if one piece influenced the creation of the other?

Pearl and Silver Necklace,
ca. 1960's-70's. This piece is called the "Collar de Perlas" by Maestro Pineda.

Just as Don Antonio appeared delighted to see his Aztec Symbol Bracelet again, so too did he appear genuinely pleased to look at and hold one of his less common pieces, his pearl necklace. His inspiration was two fold: he wanted to capture the beauty of the pearl in its shell, and  he had a personal desire to use the technique of oxidation as a central feature. He recalled that very few designs of the era used oxidation for anything more than  high-lighting and low-lighting  the primary silver design features.

Antonio Pineda explaining the inspiration behind his Pearl Necklace, "Collar de Perlas"

Antonio Pineda pronounced this a successful design--the oxidation is done so well that it creates a smooth glass-like backdrop for the pearls, a backdrop almost as smooth and glass-like as obsidian. He also admired the links--they echo the center design elements and  relate proportionately to this same central aspect. (He compared his chain  to that of Aguilar's "Old Maguey Necklace." Though he admired the chain as being quite lovely, he  criticized it for being unrelated to the central design elements as well as being expensive to produce.)

Side view of neck chain design showing it to be well incorporated and fully related to the front pectoral piece.

Old Maguey Necklace - According
to Maestro Pineda this chain, while lovely, is less successful and not well integrated with the central design features.

"Collar de Ondas,"
Antonio Pineda's name for this well known circa 1950's piece.

Antonio Pineda discussing the Necklace of 'Onyx' Waves.

This necklace's design came about after a conversation between Maestro Pineda and Tapia, one of his stonecutters. Tapia had the idea of cutting a shape out of onyx and giving it to Don Antonio. Maestro Pineda's challenge was to then take the shape and create silver jewelry with it. They agreed and off went Tapia. He later returned and gave Don Antonio the onyx stone carved like a wave. This single shape ignited a flurry of creative activity. The first thing Don Antonio designed using the wave shape was the "Necklace of Onyx Waves."  From there he designed a matching bracelet. He also created a bolo and matching cufflinks. The shape reappears in a later necklace with lovely silver detailing and moonstone embellishments.



Antonio Pineda created this design by utilizing the same wave shaped piece of onyx. 
The single cut piece of onyx 
creates the horns.

Onyx waves and moonstone necklace -- another variation of the onyx wave.

Detail of boa clasp, 
circa 1950's.

Matching cufflinks, circa 1950's. (Same onyx wave shape used in the horns of the cufflinks.)

Antonio Pineda's 'Birdcage' Demi-Parure, ca. 1950's-60's.

The origin of the name for this demi-parure has always perplexed me. My best understanding of its relationship to a birdcage was that the circling wire bands were a modernistic interpretation of the bars that run around the cage.

Antonio Pineda describing his
thought processes that resulted in the marvelous 'Game of Wires in the Cosmos' Demi-Parure.

Antonio Pineda
enthusiastically recalls the creation of this wonderful necklace.

Don Antonio was surprised and a bit saddened by the name. Surprised because the design inspiration for this necklace and bracelet is very far from the notion of a cage and saddened because he sees no timeless beauty in a bird being caged.
Inspiration for these two pieces came from the "Cosmos."  At the time he was thinking that there was no successful design that only used silver wire as the central element. In his mind, he started playing with silver wire forms. He started seeing the silver wire moving through the Cosmos. As his creative force played with images of silver wire moving through Heavens (and according to the Maestro the Heavens answered back), the design for this phenomenal necklace and bracelet began to take form. He took his design sketches to his silversmiths and mock-ups were created. In the mock up phase, hidden hinging was added to the necklace to ensure it could move well with the wearer’s body.

The Cosmos?
After talking to Maestro Pineda about this demi-parure,
 this marvelous design brings images of the Solar System to mind,

The day ended in quintessentially Taxco fashion drinking Bertas at a local bar- cafe  with a view of Santa Prisca and the zocolo. Drinking Bertas in the late afternoon is a Taxco tradition. The drink was created by a bar owner named Berta and is a delightful refreshment mixed from tequila, limejuice, water, and ice. When ordering this drink, tradition dictates that one order by the block, meaning just how far you want to be able to walk after finishing. I wanted to go nowhere, being already in  Taxco, as in a late afternoon dream, talking with the brilliant Antonio Pineda, so I ordered 1/2 block. During that afternoon the Maestro remembered more of his early years with silver, spent much time speaking about specific pieces, and then regaled us with tales of wild, unplanned adventures traveling throughout the Republic with friends and family.

Antonio Pineda is clearly a man of extraordinary talent and creative vision. He is a man who has dominated his craft and enjoyed a world-wide reputation for creating unique, modern designs that are well crafted. He is rightfully proud of this legacy.

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 please click here for part I

Article by Gabrielle Stodd
photos by  Eduardo Patiño Gonzalez and courtesy of Gabrielle Stodd

Web design by Marbeth Schon

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