"It fills me with pride to know that my retablos will be going to different parts of the world where the culture is totally different… but just as beautiful as my own."
"I'm Erika Ulloa Vilchez. I was born and raised in the beautiful city of Tarma. My parents taught me so much about life and about Peru. As a child, I loved to play volleyball and I still do, although I no longer can very much because I dedicate a lot of my time to my family.
"My parents worked in ceramics, crafting clay jars by hand. I helped them with production and marketing, and this is where my loved for handicrafts began.
"In 2000, I got a job in the workshop of Lopez Antoy, whose work with our traditional retablos, or dioramas is renowned. I realized how much this art form attracts me, and I learned a lot from him. Once I started crafting retablos, I was never able to stop.
"I'd describe this beautiful art form as a glimpse of my culture and our Andean traditions. I love my country and want the entire world to get acquainted with it and understand it. I'd like my designs to reach the far corners of the globe so that Peru can be better known and loved. This goal is a source of motivation for me.
"It also implies actually experiencing the way our culture is lived. My hometown is a beautiful place in the Peruvian Andes with wonderful people who work on farms, raise animals and are artisans. I show these activities in my dioramas, while also expressing my religious faith, which is very important to me. In fact, a number of my designs depict the birth of the Christ child. This is all a part of my life and the passion I feel inside.
"My greatest challenge in life has definitely been raising my young children. It's a 24/7 job that no one prepares you for. People can give you advice, but no one knows what it's like to be a mother until you hold your baby in your arms. It's a feeling that's hard to explain.
"I also want to continue growing as a person and as an artisan.
"I've exhibited my work in small Christmas fairs and Independence Day celebrations, and once they were on display in the Congressional Building and in the Museo de la Nación, but only briefly.
"I'd like to thank all you for permitting me to show you my art and for appreciating its beauty. But above all, I'm thrilled that you can get to know our Andean way of life. It fills me with pride to know that my retablos will be going to different parts of the world where the culture is totally different… but just as beautiful as my own."