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Sigi Pineda

L o o k i n g    t o    t h e   F u t u r e

by Sheila Pamfiloff and Javier (Javi) Olivares

Photo of Sigi courtesy of Fred & Stella Krieger

Sigi Pineda, now in his early 70's, may be one of the last of the great historic artisans of Taxco still producing jewelry and new designs. He developed his own style in the early 1950's, approaching a more international flavor to his work than his contemporaries and predecessors who were exploring symbolic Mexican themes. Sigi's version of organic modernism was inspirational in developing and establishing a new design sensibility in Taxco, Mexican modernism, adding to the established Mexican art vocabulary.

The Mexican Modernist Movement, is a testimonial to the vitality and versatility of Taxco jewelers and metalsmiths; and to their importance on the international stage of silver design. The singularity of Sigi's style is so distinct that everyone can identify his work, and often, people say of similar designs that this piece of jewelry has the "Sigi Look".

Sigi has worked with jewelry from his early childhood to the present. In his middle years, he took a hiatus form the art world, after suffering injuries sustained in an automobile crash. Returning to the world of art in his later years, with vigor, fresh inspiration and artistic passion, he created sophisticated, one of a kind, pieces, as only seasoned artisans are able to do.

Sigi drawings

In January of this year, I conducted an interview with Sigi. I, however, thought it would be appropriate to conduct the interview in Sigi's native language and later have it translated into English. So, I drafted a rough outline and I enlisted the aid of Javi Olivares, my son in law, who is a Mexican jeweler, to conduct the interview in Spanish. Javi had just recently returned from Taxco, where he had spent time with Sigi and they had become friends over many cups of Nescafe, sharing stories of jewelry and Old Taxco.

Sigi Pineda, a very talented, passionate, and sweet dispositioned man, was not afraid, from time to time, to speak his mind. It must be the time in his life, or his age, which allows him to speak so freely. He shared his thoughts with Javi in a causal way as artistic colleagues, or as friends, would do.

 Sheila Pamfiloff

Interview with Sigi Pineda

C o n d u c t e d   b y   J a v i e r   O l i v a r e s
  J a n u a r y   2 0 0 0

please find questions by Javi on the left and answers by Sigi on the right


J a v i

S i g i

Where were you born?
Taxco, 1929. I grew up in Taxco.
How long did you live in Taxco?
I lived there until I was 15 years old.
You moved from Taxco at 15 years old? .......... And after 15 years old....?
When I was 15 years old, I left Taxco and I traveled all over Mexico and I returned to Taxco at 19 years old
Do you have any other artists in your family besides yourself?  

I have one older brother who is the best guitarist in Mexico.
Only one brother........ who is a guitarist.
Yes, his name is Gabriel Pineda. He plays Flamenco guitar.
Well, regarding your art, where did you study jewelry? Or did you go to a school?
In the workshops in Taxco, Mexico and Puebla.
In Puebla.... but did you have any special preparation?

No,. I never went to jeweler's school.
No, but did you have someone who took you in and taught you?
No.....no the workshops were the schools.
Yes. Yes. I understand.
I learned on my own....... Javier.
Yes, I do understand. Polishing, asking questions to the masters, and watching.
Well, the masters gave me work and they kept an eye on me.
Well, that is normal when you begin working in a shop and you begin to polish and clean the work. .... but where was the first place that you really began to learn to work?

In Taxco.

In Taxco.?
In a small workshop. It belonged to a man from Iguala.
Do you know the name?
His name was Panuncio.
And?

We made filigree.
How old were you when you started ?
I was 10 years old.
You were 10 years old when you started. OK. Another question, who was your biggest artistic influence?

Ah........ I don't have one. I don't have an influence! I tried from the beginning to make things without bringing anything else in.
Ah. Ha. And then?
Then I began working at 12 years old with the Castillos.
You were 12?
12!!
Is it correct to say that they were your first school?
No. It was not a school. It was an already established workshop. This is where I learned to work the metal. And in three years, I became a Master at the Castillo's.
And then?
I left Taxco........ I was 15........ I left the Castillos and went to Puebla.
What did you do in Puebla?

I worked there too.
Did you work with silver?
Yes, and there were many good silversmiths in Puebla.
Do you have any idea of the name of the workshop you worked in?
Ah....No. I can't remember. It was a workshop without a name. Sigh.... I am 70 years old.
I know... .These are just basic questions. For making…...
The details are common........like, any other man.
Ah....... Another question, uh…
I also worked in Mexico City.
There too?...... At what age?
17 years.
Ahhh..... Ok...... Who was your biggest inspiration to open your own workshop?
Ahhh. Women... chuckle
Yes?

I am always thinking of women when I start a piece.
Yes , Really?
Yes. Really......... For me, women are the biggest inspiration in the world.
Another question. Your first work was done at the Castillo's. I mean, your first formal work. And after, did you work somewhere else?
I worked for 4 years at Margot's. I started making enamel work for her shop.
How old were you?
I was 19. I worked with Margot from 19 until I was 23 years old. At 23, I made my own workshop and I left Margot's.
Did you know anyone who worked enamel back then?
No. I was the first to do it with Margot. She gave me the opportunity to do it. Then, I taught the other guys how to work with enamel.
Who taught you how to work with enamel?
I learned in Mexico City. When I came back to Taxco, I started using it with silver. I used it with gold in Mexico city.
How long were you doing it before you applied it in Margot's shop?
Very little. I only learned it. When I went to Taxco, Margot gave me the opportunity to work enamel.
You say that you went to work with Margot, but did you start working on enamel from the start?

No. I started like any other qualified silversmith. They gave me quality work because they knew my work was first class. I worked 6 months until I told the Madam that I did not want to work on silver anymore, I wanted a chance to grow, or I would leave.

Did she work enamel before you started working with her?
No. They were just trying and could not produce anything yet and the samples her husband made, and another person, were keeping it a secret. I did not find out until 6 months later and I told her, "Look, I know how to work enamel. Why don't you give me the opportunity?", and she gave it to me and I started to make enamel.
You were the pioneer of enamel in Margot's shop?
Yes, I was, because no one knew how.
After you left Margot's, you opened your own workshop?

Right after I opened, they gave me a scholarship. From the US. It was the last of the.........I did the Scholarship in New England, New York, Washington DC, they sent me to all of these places.

How long was the course?
3 months.
Did they give you any awards?

Yes, when I returned to Mexico, they gave me an award in Mexico.
Do you still have it?
No. When I went to Taxco, I threw away everything. I don't have anything.
Concerning the history of your stores. How many did you have?
The first was Sigi. At first it was called Plateros, but after awhile, we called it Sigi.
Was this in Taxco?
It was in Taxco at Soto and La Marina
What others did you have?
I had another, San Remo, right in the Zocalo. It was a very large store.
Did you also have one in Mexico City?
Yes, I had one in Mexico City. In the Pink Zone.
What was the name?
Sigi 2, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato. I had 2 stores, one in San Miguel de Allende, and one in Guanajuato.
Why do you use an S instead of an X in your Taxco stamp?

Giggle, because the Americans pronounced it TAKSCO.
Which designer is your favorite in Taxco?
Just Sigi!....chuckle.
What are your feelings about the history of Taxco?
Well. It is a long story. The history of Taxco is romantic, and very beautiful. When Spratling arrived to Taxco, he discovered silver and put us on the map. Since then, many important people came such as sculptors, painters, and they made Taxco an Emporium. Then, Taxco was very small. It was a Taxco entirely made of craftsman, shoe makers, carpenters….it was like any other Mexican town.

Did you work with Spratling?
No.
How did you meet him?


Sigi wall mosaic

There is a national competition that Spratling started 60 years ago. I never entered the competition, because I never thought of myself as a designer. I mean, I was just a craftsman. At this time.. I have a store, I have a lot of pieces, many clients, and a big store. Rafael, my brother, was the manager at the Castillos, he is the oldest of my brothers, he is very smart, and I took him to work at my store to work with me being my administrator.

I go on a trip, he takes the piece. He erased the stamp and entered it in the contest. I won first prize. The first prize was the "galardon" of Spratling. I got the first prize, the galardon, and the next day, Spratling came to my store. From then on it was the start of a long and beautiful friendship that lasted until he died.

This is a very beautiful anecdote. He used to visit me very often, but one day I had some clients in my store, they were a couple. He said to me, "Good morning." and I told him, "Good morning Mr. Spratling". He was very handsome then. He stepped away and the couple asked me if he was the famous Mr. Spratling and I told them " yes". Then, Mr. Spratling, who was very handsome, said. "I am the Old Mr. Spratling of Taxco".

Which are some of the awards you have received in your career?
I won the international award of silverware in an international silver competition. Just one.

Have you participated in different shows or competitions?
Very few and I won just the one.
Have you written books or articles about your life?
No, I'm no writer.
Have you given interviews regarding your art?
Laugh.....Yes. So many I can't count
Have you been making any new pieces, have you had any designs or specific ideas for the new millennium?
I am just now designing new pieces, especially for Sheila Pamfiloff, and for a world competition . I am no longer happy with my previous designs. This time, I am going to be among the top 100 designers and I am content with that.
I understand you had a serious accident that stopped you from working?

Yes, that was 24 years ago. I was 46 years old.
Was this a car accident?
Yes it was.
Were you driving?

No. It was a kid, a friend. He lost control of the car, it went off the road and we hit a wall, he grabbed the wheel and the other had been drinking. Nothing happened to that guy. I tried to protect myself by putting my hands on my face, and I broke my knees, 8 ribs, collar bone, one arm.
How long did it take for you to recuperate?
Incredibly, only 2 months.
2 months?
Well, I got up in 2 months and started to walk. After, it took another 2 years to be able to walk around Taxco.
When you designed in the 50's, did George Jensen or other Scandinavian designers influence you?
No. They started before me. George Jensen had an important store in New York. And I arrived to sell some work on Fifth Ave, but when I was in New York, I found some other designers who were doing the same stuff .
Do you think that modern Taxco designs are influenced by the old........because you yourself like change, you like to renew yourself.
No...There is a little of everything. I am not like that, I'm not like the guy who bought Spratling's designs and continued to make and sell them with success. What I am doing is new, it has a new flavor.
You showed me some Pre-Colombian pieces. Have you made them or used them?
No, they are just samples. Just one occasion I made a set, I sold it and that was it. It was just one shot? That was 20 years ago. It was only an experience. I made a set and I took them to Houston looking for buyers. But I just found one buyer. The buyer made an order, but it was too big and I couldn't produce them. I came back to Taxco so depressed about my failure that I threw all of the pieces in a box and didn't find them until 20 years later. Those are the only pieces I have.
What other kinds of work did you develop when you were in Taxco?
Works in gold.
Have you ever had any other profession?
Never..... have I left my field. I have worked on blown glass and ceramics.
Did you sign them with your name?
No.
Do you have an idea if any of the old masters are still alive?
With or without names?
With names.
No.... Just the Castillos. There are no more....... Some masters of silver, or workers like... Julio Carbal who worked for Hector Aguilar. But, there are no more.
Do you have any favorite artist?
Sigi-Orozco, Alfaro Siqieros……Diego Rivera……Tamayo * 
What are your feelings about Taxco now?
Look...... Taxco has enormous possibility. It is the responsibility of the old people to find a way to boost it again and rescue what we have lost.
Do you think that it has industrialized so much that it no longer has artistic value?
It has gone down hill. Instead of silver artists, we have silver workers. We are at Taiwan's level. The only way to rescue Taxco is by creating a school where they learn and make quality silver at the same time.

Gracias mi amigo, until another time.


    end of interview

*(This is Rufino Tamayo, who designed the famous Los Castillo parrot design)

Recently, I received the prototype of Sigi's latest design, a necklace, bracelet and earrings set. (see below) I was amazed. The pieces are a fusion of Rosewood and Silver. There is a unity of soft rounded lines and circles in the center pieces that are subtly echoed in the surprising details of the wristband and neckband. All the of the elements are dancing. Beauty may be an understatement!

When I called Sigi to let him know that his treasures had arrived, I showered him with compliments. He said, "Yes, I think that this is my best work, ever." In the true 'Sigi' style, he said that all of his past works were not worthy. When I protested and told him how greatly his work was respected, all over the world, he said, "Oh, it's OK."

"Sigi is a true artist, his eyes are always looking to the future"

 Sheila Pamfiloff
www.glitterbox.com

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article by Sheila Pamfiloff and Javier (Javi) Olivares
photographs courtesy of Sheila Pamfiloff
web design by Marbeth Schon
www.mschon.com

 Copyright © 2000 Sheila Pamfiloff
web design  Copyright © Modern Silver Magazine

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