When we first saw our house in San Miguel de Allende one of the things we loved was that it was filled with some pretty swell tin work. A friend told us that this was the work of Chilo, a master tinsmith here in San Miguel. The piece in the photo here is a large piece that covers a door that hides the tv over our fireplace. It is one large piece with quite a lot of detailed work. It must have taken hours to do this, as every single mark on this is done by hand, and it is one solid piece of very thin tin, mounted on wood. After the designing is finished, the tin is plated with silver. There is also a large mirror in the entry, hanging lights in the dining room, and an over-the-top bed headboard with matching side tables. We later met Chilo. His shop is a short walk from our house. He is kind of a character, very friendly, and even though he doesn’t speak English, he communicates well.
As the days have gone by I have wondered how in the world he managed to cut the holes into the tin designs. As a former metalsmith, I totally understand how the chasing and repossé textures are done, but the piercing was a puzzle. The metal is very thin, and the sheets on some of pieces are large. I first though a handsaw, but all I could see was the metal buckling and being impossible. Then I thought some sort of laser. But that seems too high-tech for this kind of hand crafting.
We realized over the weekend that the light fixture in our entry way (not a tin one) was going to have to be replaced, because both of us don’t like it. Yesterday we walked by Chilo’s shop and went in to look around. We found a perfect fixture, and have asked him to make a version of it that will fix our entry. I asked him how he makes the piercings. He proceeded to give me a full technical demonstration of how he works…it’s all done with little (very sharp) punches. That had never occurred to me, but makes perfect sense. Of course, my designing mind started spinning. He showed me his way of doing the chasing and the repossé as well. He cuts the outside parts with shears, just like I always cut metal. I totally enjoyed this visit, and look forward to getting our new light fixture installed. It would be fun to do some of this tin work, but I would definitely wear gloves!
The next time I go by his shop, I will take his picture for you. He is one of the many wonderful characters who make San Miguel one of the most interesting and art-filled cities in Mexico.
Here is a picture of the large light fixture in our dining room. This is what inspired us to get Chilo to do another one for the entry.