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Artisans who create works by punching and stamping tin carry on a historic New Mexico tradition that links back to Spanish colonial times.
In the mid-1800s, silver was expensive and reserved for crosses and other religious objects displayed in churches or the homes of wealthy families, but tin was in plentiful supply in New Mexico as people made their way west on the Santa Fe Trail. The settlers carried goods such as food, oil and drinking water in large tins.
Resourceful artists recycled the tin canisters to create household items such as candlesticks, lamps and mirror frames. These first New Mexican tinsmiths adapted leatherworking tools to stamp and punch designs into the tin surfaces, and eventually new tools were developed specifically for working with tin.
New Mexican tinwork usually features intricate scalloped borders, floral designs and decorative corners. Each tinsmith develops his or her own distinctive style, sometimes following techniques and patterns passed down for generations. These elements become a signature of the family of artists who created them. The tin can be polished to a shine or buffed to a patina for an antique look.
You can find other examples of Spanish Colonial art at the Albuquerque Museum and at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, where you can also learn about the influence of centuries of Hispanic culture on the city.
Jason Younis y Delgado, a fifth-generation New Mexican tinsmith who lives in Albuquerque, designed the artwork that wraps an ABQ Ride bus. Jason learned the art from his grandmother and great-uncle, and he began working with tin at an early age. His bus wrap features design patterns that are unique to his family.
In addition to creating award-winning art that he sells online, in galleries and at art shows, Jason also teaches tinsmithing workshops so others can keep the artistic tradition alive. He is a member of the Spanish Colonial Arts Society.
Find more of Jason’s work on Instagram @metalsmytheshop or on Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/metalsmytheshop.
The City of Albuquerque and Visit Albuquerque wrapped ABQ Ride buses with three authentically Albuquerque designs. To read more, click here.