Colombian Soul: Mercedes Salazar Welcomes The Nopo to Colombia
Colombian Soul: Mercedes Salazar Welcomes The Nopo to Colombia
Plus all the reasons why you should visit Colombia right now
It’s been very difficult to keep this quiet over the last few months, but we’ve been hard at work to uncover more wonderful artisans and beautiful crafts from our next destination. You heard right, our journey of discovery has taken us south to a beautiful land of jungles, sea, white sands, tropical vegetation, and virgin mountains… Welcome to Colombia!
We enlisted the help of an amazing local partner to scour the four corners of Colombia, searching for the most unique treasures among the thousands of artisanal crafts Colombia is rich in. From the crochet technique of the Wayuu people in La Guajira and surrounding to the iraca and werregue palm weaving, via the most exciting Bogotá-based brands and creators, we’re bringing the essence of Colombia straight to your doorstep.
As always, the journey has been an exciting one, and we are beyond thrilled to announce none other than world-famous Colombian designer Mercedes Salazar decided to join forces with us and endorse the launch of Colombia on The Nopo.
Mercedes is one of Colombia’s top designers with a career spanning almost three decades, and her work to preserve, enrich and promote Colombian craftsmanship has been transformational for hundreds of artisans. Barely two years after starting her brand in the late 90s, Mercedes had her own workshop and showroom in Bogotá, La Casa de Mercedes, and now counts over 300 worldwide distributors across close to 30 markets around the world, including Colombia, the USA, Europe & the UK, and Asia.
Ever the creative and inspirational soul, Mercedes took a deep dive into the stories and crafts of the Colombian artisans The Nopo has been selecting so far, and she has put together her favorites in a Curated Collection that will bring all of Colombia’s rich diversity to you.
We had the huge pleasure of catching up with Mercedes at her workshop in Bogotá, where she spends every working day after a morning routine of meditation and hiking the beautiful hills in Bogotá’s neighborhood Oriente.
With an artistic career spanning almost three decades, it’s safe to say Mercedes is one of Colombia’s best-established and original voices in Colombian design. Mercedes knew very soon that jewelry would play a big role in her life, ever since the friendship bracelets she made and sold at school aged ten were an instant hit among her peers.
“Jewelry has always been present in my life, and at nineteen after school, I decided to move to Mexico to study at the National Institute of Fine Arts, where I specialized in gold smithery and learned about metal sculpting and enameling.”
Back in Colombia at twenty-two, Mercedes would have it all or nothing. Fresh from her learning in Mexico, she immediately started her Mercedes Salazar Joyería brand, all whilst getting married and becoming pregnant with her first child. When people kept admiring the jewelry she made and wore all the time, she understood there could be a business path beyond her passion and hunger for creativity.
“My brain is always creating, I’m constantly imagining new pieces, ideas, combinations. Soon I understood there was no way I could keep up with myself, and that I most enjoyed designing, so I started collaborating with artisans to make my visions come alive.”
More than twenty years later, Mercedes employs fifty people and collaborates with over two hundred artisans across the whole country, having expanded beyond jewelry into home decor, ceramics, basketry, lighting, hat and bag making, and more. Indeed Mercedes integrates a wealth of ancestral techniques from across Colombia in her work, such as the crochet technique from the Wayyú community of la Guajira, the straw weaving from the Zenú artisans of Córdoba, the iraca palm weaving from the artisans of Nariño, and the werregue palm weaving of the Wounaan Nonam community from Chocó, among others.
What struck us most about Mercedes is her symbiotic relationships with the artisan communities she works with, which normally continue for months or years of intense creative exchange between her design eye and the artisans’ manufacturing and technical skills.
“The knowledge indigenous people in Colombia have is the most beautiful and important asset we have and working to foster traditional crafts is the best way to preserve it. When artisans work together, they are not just creating a product to sell, rather they are perpetuating their culture and identity generation by generation.”
Endlessly inspired by Colombia’s natural environment and its indigenous people and their cultures, Mercedes is one and the same with her motherland. “Colombia is my soul,” she said with shining eyes, “It’s who I am and where I come from ancestrally. I am honored to have this creativity inside me that allows me to share everything that Colombia is with the rest of the world.”
Read on to discover our top reasons to visit Colombia… And when your mouth starts watering, head over to Mercedes’s Curated Collection or Shop Colombia to assuage your thirst!
#1 The Beaches
Stretching across the top of South America, Colombia features not one, but two beautiful coastlines, both very different from each other. The northern coast looks out onto the stunning Caribbean sea, with its crystal clear waters and its otherworldly beaches, such as Palomino and Cabo San Juan in the beautiful Tayrona National Park.
The western coast faces the neverending expanse of the wild Pacific Ocean, with virgin, secluded beaches that sometimes can only be reached by boat or a hike through the jungle. Head over to Guachalito Beach to marvel at its black sands, or visit El Amejal beach for some surfing and a host of boutique hotels to choose from.
#2 The Cities
While Colombia is more often associated with wild jungles, high mountains, and stunning beaches, its cities have been up and coming in the last few years. Its centrally-located capital Bogotá offers a booming food & lifestyle scene, with plenty of coffee shops, restaurants, and street art, as well as historical itineraries on foot and hikes in the surrounding hills.
Colombia’s second city Medellin has seen a renaissance in recent years, while Cartagena, the jewel of the Caribbean coast, displays a wealth of colonial architecture visible in small streets with pastel-colored buildings and ornate balconies, as well as breathtaking sunsets on its urban beaches.
#3 The Coffee
From sustainable growing techniques that respect the environment and employ the local population to roasteries open to the public, to courses to become an expert, if you like coffee you will have a wealth of opportunities to delve into the history of this ancient drink.
Try Libertario, Pergamino, or Varietale coffee for an excellent brew with meaning, or hop around the thousands of coffee shops Bogota has to offer, such as the beautiful El Atillo Cafe in the chic neighborhood of Usaquen, or Catación Publica, which hosts roasting workshops and coffee tasting experiences.
Mercedes’s life-long commitment to Colombia and its crafts is shining through her Curated Collection, filled with all her favorites from the Colombian artisans The Nopo is collaborating with. Take a deep dive into the stories and crafts of Colombia with her Curated Collection available from today!