Ever since Hina Glazer and Oren Harad moved to Canada from Mexico in 2010, they wanted to find a way to link the two countries. Inspired by how Canadians love to connect with other cultures and travel to Mexico, they wanted to show Canadians the beauty of Mexico beyond the tourist resorts.
They started Artesano Canada, an enamelware and folk art business that puts Mexico’s art in the spotlight.
The name comes from the Spanish word for artisan, but there is another hidden meaning. Glazer and Harad liked that arte means art and sano means healthy, suggesting that the colourful hand-painted skulls and black-and-white enamelware that they sell are good for their customers.
The couple began selling their goods after a 2016 trip to Oaxaca, their favourite region in Mexico. Along with their three kids, they met several talented artisans whose crafts has been passed down to them from their parents and grandparents.
“So the traditional art is art that's been made for obviously many years… [and] most of the artists are born into it… We went to a resort a few months ago and… we saw many of the skulls… painted like American sports teams. So that's the difference. I could cry right now when I tell you this. And there were artisans making them but they were not making their grandparents’ art,” Glazer explained.
For this reason, Artesano supports traditional Mexican art. The business currently works with two families of artisans in Mexico, with whom Glazer has a personal relationship with. They are a fair trade company as Glazer is strongly against taking advantage of others. She pays the artisans their desired price because she believes only they know what the products are worth.
Last November, Artesano participated in in Ontario Public Interest Research Group’s Fair Trade Fest at McMaster University Student Centre Atrium. They sell their products both online and in markets across the greater Hamilton area. Their online store ships worldwide and they have a shop at St. Jacob’s Market in Waterloo.
Glazer and Harad intended to run the business on the side, but their business grew and Glazer now operates Artesano full-time. Prior, Glazer was a self-employed translator, but has never owned a business. While the process has been hard for her and her family, it has also been very rewarding and led to several new skills.
“[I]t's hard to try to put your name out there and your brand… [E]ven if people respond, it's not an easy journey but you learn so much about yourself. It's amazing… [Y]ou used to do one part of the business… and that's it. Nowadays we start these small businesses. We're not social media experts and we're not sales experts… but we do all that… So it's a challenge,” Glazer said.
Glazer credits her fellow vendors and entrepreneurs in Hamilton for making the process easier. The warm entrepreneur community provides tips and a support system for her and her family as they juggle life and work.
The city has also been very supportive of Glazer and Harad. Last November their van, filled with $5000 of product, was stolen in downtown Hamilton. While the goods were not recovered, they still hear kind words from Hamiltonians to this day. They have also found support in their neighbourhood, with kind neighbours who will look after their children if needed.
The city’s sense of community, thriving art scene and rapid growth make it a wonderful fit for Artesano. As the business grows, Glazer aims to continuing travelling to Mexico and meeting other artists. She wants Artesano’s products to connect people around the world to the rich culture of Mexico.
“I really like the ceramic skulls because they represent so much about Mexico… Day of the Dead is the most important celebration of the year and skulls are such an important part of the Mexican culture… I would love to see us help people learn more about Day of the Dead which we try to do in our social media. And you know Mexican traditions in general, just… extend this knowledge to everyone who's interested,” Glazer explained.
The business is also a way for Glazer to keep her children connected to Mexico, even as they grow up in Canada. She considers Artesano a family business and would love to see it passed down to her children. Like the artisans they collaborate with, Artesano might be around for generations to come.