Ricardo Esteban Zapata Uribe

Workshop: Contreras & Zapata
Craft: Tejeduría
Trail: Paipa-Monguí Route
Location: Duitama, Boyacá


  Vereda san Antonio norte, sector Cuatro Esquinas Duitama, Boyaca

He knows he is a good salesman. When you hear him speak, you understand why he claims to be so. He is jovial, dedicated, fun, and charismatic. Although his mother used to weave at home —and still does—, his wife Yaneth and her family’s business, La Tejedora, the renowned ruanas factory of the Contreras family, helped him get established in the trade. In any case, he never fails to mention the immense liking he has always had for threads. When he was a student in the capital, he was the one who went to fetch the orders of wool, yarns and cottons to his mother at the haberdashery La Casa Rosada, one of the most beloved places for those who study textile design in Bogota. With those materials, Margarita Uribe made mochila backpacks, crocheted, and knitted using the two-needle and cross-stitching techniques that today, well into her eighties, she continues to practice. However, it was from the heart that Ricardo decided to get fully involved in the family business. He did so to the point that today he proudly claims that he belongs to the fifth generation of artisans dedicated to weaving in his family.

He is a mischievous man and laughs remembering how much of a party animal he was when he was young, when he skipped his advertising career by devoting more hours of the day —or rather of the night— to partying at La Teja Corrida and Goce Pagano than to his studies. This, however, gives him the opportunity to tell that neither he nor his wife Yaneth studied anything related to handicrafts, although their lives ended up crossing precisely because of textiles. She started a Food Engineering degree that did not interest her much, but later discovered that her passion was Architecture. He, in a similar fashion, ended up realizing that his skill was the commercialization of the handmade products with which he had always been surrounded.

They both began their life together getting their livelihoods from the Contreras family brand. He would carry a suitcase full of blankets and ruanas of virgin wool and would go to Bogotá to sell them to each of the members of his paisa family, as well as to the numerous friends he had made. He convinced them all of the delicious need for wool. He also began to supply stores and was finding the taste for negotiating and making wholesale agreements that he achieved not only by offering an excellent product, but also by his tremendous oratory skills and the natural charisma of the paisa in him that he got from his mother. Of course, to sell as he has always done, he knows it is essential to be a good weaver, so he is one too.

When he takes you through his workshop, he stops admiringly at the dummies that his wife made more than 18 years ago when they decided to start their own brand: Contreras and Zapara Textile Design. There, Yaneth used her architectural rigor to come up with mock-ups of design patterns that they would later use on bedspreads, blankets and throws —decorative fabrics—. Thanks to those details, Ricardo has been able to identify that, when they got invited to participate in artisanal fairs, their business changed, and his work got a new level of value. Even though he still produces large quantities of ruanas and blankets, his focus is on the finishes and neatness of the wool so that the feel of the wool is an experience full of softness. The edges, filleted by hand, finish the product in a delicate manner. It may be for this reason that he is so valued in Europe, where he has a customer who offers his blankets in London as a handmade product of the highest quality.

He knows that going back to the start was what he was supposed to do, so his wife and mother are her largest accomplices in the preservation of a tradition they have built their lives around.

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