"I'm proud to be who I am here with my family and I thank God for the ability he has given me to work in reverse painted glass."
When you express your deepest feelings through the art you love, the hands that create each detail are blessed and transform each design into works of art. This is true of Peru's Ortiz Family.
When they least expected it, where they never imagined it, life brought Betsy and Arturo together. As artisans, the two complement each other's abilities and skills, and they formed a beautiful family.
Arturo shares his story. "I was born in Islay, on the coast of Arequipa, the fifth of six children. I'll never forget the good times we spent playing on the beach and in the countryside, in the fields where we enjoyed the freedom of being children. How we enjoyed playing soccer, dinners with a large and loving family! This was my life until I was 11. Then my parents separated and it was so hard. I couldn't accept the fact that what I believed to be a beautiful relationship was over. In a way, it also meant the separation from my brothers, as some of them decided to move to Lima while others stayed in the village. Shortly afterward, my father met someone else and formed a family with her.
"I went to Lima with my sister. I had to finish junior high and it was important to continue our schooling. We stayed with relatives on my father's side. Soon after, we moved into a small house we rented and our mother came to live with us.
"I enrolled in school and that's where I met Betsy. We hit it off immediately and became inseparable friends. I fell in love with her — she was 12 and I was 14.
"Betsy was always attracted to art and loved drawing and painting. Her grandfather was very good at art and worked in reverse painted glass.
"This technique was brought to Peru in the 15th century in the form of Spanish mirrors and ornamental frames used in churches, convents and colonial mansions. Little by little, the art spread and took on a Peruvian style. Betsy and her family worked in this technique to create unique and beautiful designs. She always had art in her blood and, when I met her, she seemed to shine with a light all her own.
"When I finished school, Betsy suggested I work in her father's carpentry shop. I made some tips, which gave me spending money, and I was able to help with some of the processes. I never thought I'd end up working in reverse painted glass. It wasn't my main occupation. I studied public administration and had a government job where I worked full time for 11 years.
"During that time, I proposed to Betsy and we were married when I was 21 and she was 19. We made a lovely family. We're allies, accomplices and best friends.
"After working in the local government for 11 years, there was a personnel cut and I lost my job. Without a doubt, this is the best thing that could have happened. I returned to the workshop and perfected my technique so I could support my family and work together with Betsy because union is the source of strength.
"Ever since I married, my life has been filled with learning and adventures. I never dreamed of finding love at school and even less that she'd become my teacher in this art form. We work together and this has become our style of life.
"There've been some tough times. For example, in 2002, we met a foreign friend interested in our art. He visited our family workshop and became a partner. We taught him much about the art but it turned out that his intentions were neither friendly nor loyal. We trusted him and we lost much of our market as well as some of our carpenters. This hit us very hard. We had put a lot of effort into filling a large order and we felt cheated. We decided we'd learn from that sad experience and be more cautious in the future. It took a lot of strength to turn things around, but we did it.
"Ours isn't only a family art and doesn't represent only the Ortiz family. Behind each design and every process are the stories of young artisans who came knocking at our door. They were willing to learn and give their best effort, and working with us let them pay for their college studies. We always give them the opportunity to grow and follow their dreams because this is also one of our goals.
"There is more to life than making money. It's important to help one another to achieve a promising future and this is what we're teaching our daughter and our grandchildren. At a very young age, they began learning the value of teamwork, constancy and perseverance, and that we should never let anyone tell us we cannot do something.
"Today, we are grateful to God for our lives and for having overcome difficult times. We are proud of our spaces and workshop where we can freely develop our art. We're grateful that we've been able to put our daughter through college. And we're happy about the diversity and innovation in every detail of our designs.
"I'm forever grateful to have met my beautiful wife. She inspires us with the artistic talent in her hands. She is such a perfectionist and so creative that she brings life to all we've done since the early 1980s.
"Novica has opened a new chapter in our lives, letting us cross the borders of Peru with our art and become recognized. We love to read your comments, because your satisfaction motivates us every day.
"I'm proud to be who I am here with my family and I thank God for the ability he has given me to work in reverse painted glass. And I'm grateful for the ability to help so many artisan families reach toward a future filled with hope and dreams."