Ecuador art can be unique, charming, diverse, and historical at the same time. In our travels in northern Ecuador, we've met and enjoyed musicians, painters, weavers, potters, silversmiths, knitters and carvers. Many of these artists and artisans display and sell their work daily in the outdoor market in Plaza de los Ponchos in Otavalo.
The products in the market are made in the surrounding villages, where the indigenous artists work in their homes. Here you can find rugs, hangings, toys, carvings, shawls, sweaters, paintings, jewellry and much, much more. Some of it is original, some of it is mass produced.
Overview of Plaza de los Ponchos, Otavalo
From colonial times, Ecuador has adopted a guild system. Each village specializes in one type of craft, and excels in it.
In Cotacachi, a few minutes by car north of Otavalo, leather workers create stylish and quality leather shoes and clothing, exquisite saddles, beautiful handbags, and leather luggage.
In Peguche, the master weavers offer quality textiles in wool and cotton. There you can purchase wall hangings, rugs, woven shawls and sweaters, all for a fraction of the cost you'd pay in North America.
In San Antonio de Ibarra, wood carvers and furniture makers work from their studios and shops along the main street. Their works vary from simple ornaments to beautiful inlaid furniture, to exquisitely carved and finished religious icons.
Import Export Tour
In one visit to Ecuador, my sister and I attended an import/export tour with Gary and Merri Scott. For five days, our group travelled from Quito to the northern province of Imbabura. We learned about the arts and crafts of Ecuador from the extensive experience of this couple.
Merri began 'suitcase importing' as a young woman when she travelled into Mexico and brought back unique handicrafts for sale. The Scotts have learned how to turn their passions into profit, and excel in teaching others how to do the same.
We were privileged to see and buy from some of these artists at a crafts showing in our hotel in Cotacachi during the March Import/Export tour. We visited the studios of other local artists during the five days of the tour.
Nativo is the signature of one of the artists of this area who has developed and perfected a unique art form. On thick rough paper, handmade from recycled sources, he creates abstract designs that incorporate the flora, fauna and ancient symbols of Ecuador. His works are simple, stylized pieces, created with metallic designs on the rough painted paper.
In his latest works he has added color to the backgrounds, making even more outstanding designs and art pieces.
Art of Nativo
Birds in Watercolour
Montero is another artist we have met, and whose work we admire. His paintings of the birds and flora of Ecuador show exquisite detail and skill. His specialty is the many hummingbirds and other birds found in Ecuador, and each is rendered in watercolor with vibrant color. He is now making prints of some of his work. Both of these artists also display and sell their work in the Otavalo market.
In the village of Peguche, Jose Cotacachi lives and weaves. He is a master weaver, specializing in fine wall hangings. His designs vary from traditional Ecuadorean images to detailed more 'modern' pieces.
No shoddy weaving here - all pieces are tightly woven, well finished, and often signed. He works and displays and sells his work in an airy studio/workroom just off the main square in Peguche, as well as in local shops.
Jose Cotacachi - Master Weaver
These are just three of the Ecuadorean artists whose work is original, inspiring and creative. I've been fortunate to see and admire their work, and to obtain pieces from each for my own enjoyment.
Links to More About Ecuador
- Art and Artists in Ecuador | By Ecuador Channel
The art of Ecuador, which includes traditional crafts, is very often not only beautiful, but serves a practical purpose too. Painting, weaving and woodworking are all skills passed down through generations.
- Ecuador Explorer
My first blog, with articles and photos about our travels in Ecuador