"I feel very contented when I think of how my work is appreciated in people's homes both inside and outside Peru. I share this happiness with my family."
"I'm Gelacio Giron Fernandez. I was born in 1958 in the Gorgor district but, soon afterward, we moved temporarily to... Huanuco Raura in the sierra. We all had to move from place to place because of my father's work in the mine.
"This is how I came to attend primary school in Raura. The teachers went to the mine shelters and gave classes to all the young children of the workers. It wasn't easy but my parents worked hard to give me an education so I could defend myself and get ahead in life.
"After I completed primary school, we returned to our home where I finished junior high school and did my military service. Our economic situation got difficult again and it maintaining the household was no easy task. Our daily income began to decrease and I realized I had to look for better opportunities. I decided to go to Lima, the capital.
"I didn't have much money for travel or for a new life in the city, but this didn't stop me. From the very beginning, I knew I had to look for every possible way to live and get ahead through work. With the little cash I had and two or three changes of clothing, I left home.
"I didn't really know I'd do so I looked up an aunt who lived in Lima and stayed with her only until I found work so I could pay my own way. I took all kinds of jobs. I worked cleaning houses and offices. I was a salesman in a lot of shops and stores. I was an assistant print maker. After a few years, I'd earned enough to pay my dear aunt and enroll in a technical school for a course in accounting. My goal was to become qualified for better jobs. I never imagined becoming an artisan because I needed to pay my daily expenses and send money home to my parents.
"With my diploma, I was hired in the government mint in Lima but political problems and a change in government led them to cut back on personnel some two years later. I was laid off. I was confused and felt bad because I knew I'd have to start over again. This was a hard blow for someone as young as I was. My family was far away and I had to look after myself; I had to find strength when I had none.
"Suddenly, I found myself looking for an uncle who lived in the district to ask him for work or to recommend something because I didn't have a job. He worked as an artisan back in the 1980s, crafting coasters, mirrors, boxes and chests in reverse-painted glass, which he sold in a nearby market.
"'Gelacio,' he said, 'I can teach you to work in reverse-painted glass. You'll need patience and good humor because, otherwise, your designs won't sell. What do you think? Will you accept my offer?' I knew it would take me a while to learn but I didn't hesitate. So I soon found myself immersed in the world of painting.
"I liked it a lot. In fact, I'd say it was love at first sight. From the first time I saw my uncle's work, the process and the results, I was overcome with the desire to learn. That's when I knew this is what I wanted to do in life.
"I wanted to perfect what I'd learned. It was great to coincide with my uncle and his art. I'd never imagined I have this talent. Clearly, the exploration of our being is never-ending. It's infinite. And it's full of surprises.
"Time proved me right. With practice, my work came out better and better and I started exhibiting it in craft fairs. One day, I was packing up my unsold designs to go back home when a woman came to talk with me. It's as though she was sent from heaven. She told me she knew of a place where they'd buy my art. She asked me to go with her because this was an opportunity I shouldn't miss. Of course I did. She took me to an arts and crafts shop in an upscale part of town.
"This was the first time I officially presented my work. They evaluated it and said it had potential but I had to improve many aspects of it. So they gave it back to me with their observations and said they could commercialize it for me throughout Peru.
"I knew what I needed to do and I couldn't let this opportunity slip away. I went to talk with my uncle, my cousin, the neighbor who worked with me. With their help, I was able to perfect the necessary details and finally, my work was accepted by the arts and crafts shop.
"After so many trials and errors I was able to resolve them by searching and, especially, working hard day and night to achieve the quality I needed. I felt so proud!
"But on the way toward success, there was a breaking point. It looked like I was doing well economically but false friends, bad investments and taking the wrong path made me lose everything. This hit me hard. When I just couldn't handle it anymore, I got up again and worked on the mistakes I'd made. I had a new vision of work and effort.
"I went through a lot of difficulties. I hit bottom financially and had only enough money to live from day to day. However, there's something that characterizes human beings and that's the capacity to start over when the going gets rough. I held my head high. I was perseverant and innovative and always had a vision for the future. I believed in myself and in what I could do.
"Little by little, I realized my work was valued and appreciated, so I worked hard to make it unique. I'm an observant man and, thank God, I can still paint. I feel a passion for what I do and I love knowing my designs can have a place in the homes of people who enjoy the beauty of reverse painted glass.
"I find inspiration in the art of Peru's ancient cultures and in the natural world that surrounds us. In our varied climates and the images of our landscapes that live in my memory and in my heart. It is Peru's beauty and the exotic flora of her regions that inspires me to develop my work. And also the peace of my family motivates me.
"I ask God to give me life and health to continue doing what I love, to be a part of the lives of my children, and that this legacy continue through time to be a hallmark of our family. I want us to share it with the world.
"I believe that if we truly want to achieve our dreams, it is possible. All we have to do is work very hard and never lose sight of our goal."