Queering Craft in Santa Clara del Cobre

Coppersmithing as a Practice of Care


  • Michele Feder-Nadoff Independent Scholar



Emneord (Nøkkelord):

Craft, care, performance, non-enumerative labor, incommensurability


As an artist-anthropologist who studies “making” through apprenticeship, I have discovered that craft production in the Mexican copper-smithing community of Santa Clara del Cobre is a practice of care, a kind of love. This inversion of careful and caring labor, required to create the well-made copper piece, also encompasses qualities and skills that queer societal stereotypes of binary gender-lines. Artisans generate bodies of knowledge through representative and reproductive performance, i.e. productive labor anchored in the forge through care, perspicacity and attention. Like all nurturing activities given freely, artisanal reproductivity cannot be adequately measured as wage labor. This is not to say that this generous work should be unpaid. But rather to suggest that what is desired of craft is precisely this non-enumerative quotient of care. My research is based upon an apprenticeship to Maestro Jesús Pérez Ornelas, an independent coppersmith artisan, successful enough to be free to follow his vision and imagination, to create things with care. Maestro Jesús would say: “If I counted all the blows of my hammer, I would go crazy! And besides, no client would be able to afford to buy my work!” It is this boundless giftedness that makes up the imaginary of craft, its tropes and aura:  its generosity. Like women’s “reproductive” work of family, the work of the artisan is also “reproductive.” Both demand a “maternal” nurturance, unquantifiable attention and care. This quotient of care is pure gift without reciprocity. This non-enumerative labor… a kind of love.


Michele Feder-Nadoff, Independent Scholar

Artist-Anthropologist (Phd) 


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Hvordan referere

Feder-Nadoff, M. (2023). Queering Craft in Santa Clara del Cobre: Coppersmithing as a Practice of Care. FormAkademisk , 16(4). https://doi.org/10.7577/formakademisk.5382

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