Winifred Grace’s Partners in Mexico
Designed in Chicago, produced in Cuernavaca.
Until very recently, Winifred Grace and her assistant made every single piece in her just-tough jewelry line themselves. The trouble? Scaling. So, when she randomly read about a workshop in Cuernavaca, Mexico, that employed local women to make bronze jewelry, she got in touch ASAP. “When I got my first set of samples from the workshop it was like Christmas: Every piece was more beautiful than I could have even imagined,” she explains. Meet the south-of-the-border members of the Winifred Grace team. —raquel laneri
“This is Laura, the woman who founded the workshop. She is a descendant of Benjamin Franklin and President Roosevelt. She is from Arizona; her dad was in the civil service, and she traveled the world as a child. She works with a small group of local women who have never been able to earn a living for themselves, so she’s teaching them jewelry as a trade. It’s a way to empower these women so they can earn a higher income than they would working in the fields.”
“I design the pieces at home in Chicago and send sketches with specific measurements. We do a lot of emailing back and forth with pictures, and, once we hone in on the details, the workshop will create and send me a physical sample. Here, one of the women is soldering one of my ring designs.”
“Laura tells me that these girls have become her family. The funny thing is that after I went to study metalsmithing in San Miguel, Mexico, seven years ago, I left with this burning desire to start a workshop there with the local women. Now I’ve met Laura, and she’s done that exact thing, just in a different city.”
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Winifred Grace’s Style Muse: Her Grandma
Coolness most certainly runs in the family.
Winifred Grace grew up in an art-loving family—her parents were both avid collectors—but it was her grandmother who really pushed her into the creative life. And, damn, was this is the jewelry designer’s grandma stylin’. Get a load of her look below. —raquel laneri
“My grandmother was an artist, and she had this amazing style. I don’t want to call her a hippie—because she was more sophisticated than that—but she was a bohemian. This picture of her was a studio shot, but she actually carved those little figurines out of soap, if you can believe it.”
“My grandmother always lived close to us, and she would come over and sit with my brother and I and make things. Please note her cool pinky ring and layered chains—it makes me happy. Because of her, I knew early on that I wanted to make a living making things and selling them.”
“My grandmother was sort of a tomboy. She wore men’s wallabies—they’re like suede desert boots with rubber soles and sturdy laces—with brown corduroys. She had a very unique sense of style and marched to the beat of her own drummer.”
“When her husband died when she was in her fifties, she went and lived in San Miguel, Mexico, in an artist community, where she took all sorts of classes at the art institute there. Seven or eight years ago, I went to San Miguel and took metalsmithing classes in the same exact classroom that my grandmother had taken classes. It was a very cool thing.”
“When I went down to Mexico to take metalsmithing classes, my mom brought this sculpture my grandmother made, which weighed, I don’t know, 75 pounds. We brought it to the art institute, and the son of the man who taught my grandma during the sculpture class made a mold of it and made copies so that I could have one and my brother could have one. I have it in my studio.”
“This is one of my all-time favorite photos of her, sipping coffee with her kerchief on. I wore a kerchief like that for years before I ever saw this picture. Though she’s no longer living, I feel very connected to her. I channel her taste a lot—a lot of the pieces I make, I can see her wearing, which makes me really proud.”