Friends, please take a few minutes to read the communication we received from Libros para Pueblos, a fabulous organization of Oaxaca who build libraries in remote villages throughout the state. We were pleased to have supported them last year and plan on doing so agin this year, if not through Manos then through our own funds. If you’d like to contribute to the cause you can mail them a check directly (see below) or pay via their website and PayPal. If you want to add your donation to ours, you can drop off or mail a check (made out to OLLF) here on the pier ( c/o Steve’s Authentic, 204 Van Dyke Street, BKLYN, NY 11231).

We thank you for considering this valuable cause.


Dear Steve and Victoria:

 Thank you so much for sponsoring the library in San Andres Dinicuiti through Libros Para Pueblos.  Because of your support children who would not have access to any books are developing the habit of reading for information and pleasure.  Your generous multi-year pledge allows this important work to continue.

 Highlights of 2012 include the addition of 18 new libraries and the deepening of our partnership with Hospital de La Luz of Mexico City to offer not only free glasses and vision screening but eye surgeries as well to children and all family members of our Libros Para Pueblos communities. 

 Changing from our once a year workshop to focusing on one-on-one visits to individual libraries has allowed us to address the individual training requirements of each librarian in her community.

 The economic challenges of 2012 have also shaped the growth of our libraries. The increased price of books limited our annual purchase of new infusion books to 75 for existing libraries rather than the 100 books we had been able to order in previous years.  As a result, we added an option to make an $800 annual support in lieu of $600. Libraries supported at this level received close to the ideal 100 books.  

 However, keeping in mind that many of our donors had pledged $600 a year, we continue to offer this option. Now you decide if you can manage the $600 or $800 annual commitment. The number of new books your library receives each year will reflect this decision

 Our book committee is having a wonderful time reviewing new purchases. We especially focus on making more challenging books available to the readers as the individual library matures and we are excited by the range and vibrancy of the new books each library is receiving. 

 We appreciate your understanding as we work to find the right balance between expanding the number of libraries we support and our commitment to infusing our libraries with annual additions to their book collections.

 Since the book committee will be ordering books on April 1, 2013, receiving your 2013 pledge by March 31st will be greatly appreciated.

 Donations may be made by either check or PayPal.

Checks should be made out to Oaxaca Lending Library Foundation

On the memo line, please write: Libros Para Pueblos and the name of your library.

Mail to:            OLLF

c/o James Corrigan

5443 Drover Dr.

San Diego, CA 92115

The PayPal option may be selected on our website:


Doug Harmon/Treasurer


Mata Ortiz Revisited

Two weeks ago Monday (October-1), I left Brooklyn for Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua. A tad less than two weeks later (Saturday, October 13th at 2:30 AM) I pulled into our Red Hook warehouse, a load of new pottery from Mata Ortiz picked up over the previous weekend. I can now reflect on my journey to this amazing town. Last Spring Victoria, Derek and I had visited Mata Ortiz in-route to the border. We were as green as could be, knowing nothing about the town, her people and the amazing pottery being produced there.

This time would be different, this time, I was able to scratch the surface a little deeper, get to know some of the town’s people personally, and be privy to some of the politics and personal dynamics happening in town. Coincidentally there would also be a “brokers and collectors” annual meeting in Mata Ortiz and Casas Grande, which would bring all the “players” into the mix, many of whom I had heard about before even meeting them. I would also hook-up with a fellow importer who I felt much more aligned with than anyone from the players-club.

Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua

Showing the location of Mata Ortiz in proximity to border crossings in Douglass AZ and El Paso TX.

To understand Mata Ortiz –and the reason I drove there for more ollas (pots)– you have to understand something about the very nature of the village and the villagers. Although Mata Ortiz is located only a few hours from the border of Arizona, New Mexico or Texas, there is no shipping available from either Casas Grande or the larger commercially thriving Nuevo Casas Grande. No DHL, FedEx or UPS, no Mexican alternative whatsoever. There are exceptions, but for the most part, the villagers dilema is “if you want pots, you have to come here and get them.” Occasionally a potter will be crossing the border for either personal reasons of for the purpose of crossing pots –for a show or shipping– but this is not done with any regularity and reliability.

Then there are the brokers, who somewhat (from my perspective) indiscriminately load up and cross the border with pots not so much for their quality or beauty but more for their profitability. Routinely they double the cost, then charge  for shipping and packing. It was interesting meeting the few brokers I did while I was there, all claiming to be able to get ollas direct from the potters for less than I could do direct, all vying for the profitable position of middleman. As much as the trip cost me both in terms of time (away from family) and dollars (hotels, food and fuel), I feel that purchasing direct from the artisans is paramount to what we do here at Manos. We don’t have one item in the gallery who’s hands we haven’t seen, or gripped in a handshake, the very “Manos de Mexicanos” who craft the pieces we offer. Going the broker route probably makes more “business sense” however, part of what we do is know who we are buying from, and selecting the pieces that we are able to see for ourselves.

Here are some of the faces I met on this trip…

Again, one very important aspect of what we’re doing with our gallery is actually purchasing direct from the artisans. We could easily set up an arrangement for acquisition that would both eliminate travel time and (likely) expenses, and that arrangement would mean that we would be buying from the plethora of “brokers”, the middle-men who isolate you (and me) from the artisans, but as with all of what we offer here at Manos, we’ve seen and held and “felt” the pieces, as well as met with the artisans in their workshops and homes.

For the very same reason, we are not and will not offer internet sales. These pieces need to be seen. The internet can be a tricky place; size and texture will never be adequately represented, the spirit and enthusiasm of the artisan totally lost. We opt to make the trip from New York to Chihuahua –not an easy task– in order that we are able to purchase and offer pieces that are truly representative of Mata Ortiz and her people. We invite you here to see for yourself, what is commonly referred to as “The Miracle of Mata Ortiz.”


We’re Back, Come See Us.

We’re at 50% power, as I sit here back in Fernandia Beach Florida again waiting to pick up my truck. Victoria and Derek were driven home to Brooklyn last week and we dusted off the gallery and places some new acquisitions on the shelves. Even though I’m away again,  we are back, and Victoria will be holding regular hours on the weekends.

So we’ve finished up over 2-years of shopping and collecting, now we have to sell something. We’ve put a lot onto getting the place furnished with some of the best Mexican Folk Art we could find, and if we’re going to make this a success (help the artisans), we’ve got to sell and re-order. Our one-time purchases are not going to help them in the long run, and we’ve reassured them that we’re in this venture for the duration. We ask that you stop in and see us, especially you serious collectors or anyone looking for a nice gift. I ask that you forward this page (or a link to the site in general) if you know any interior designers who are seeking top-quality items. I don’t think you can find a nicer collection of Mexican Folk Art in this area, aside from a museum.

TWEET, Like Us or share on FaceBook, we really do need some help, and we’re calling on our collective community out there for some assistance. Thanks…