The smithing of copper in Santa Clara del Cobre, the capital of hammered copper in Mexico, is an occupation that dates back hundreds of years to the times of the indigenous Purepecha people. When the Spanish priest Vasco de Quiroga was sent to the area in the 1500's, the copper mined was plentiful. Nowadays, the copper used for artistic purposes is recycled from scraps found in old automobile parts and in remnants of electrical wiring.
When found, these recycled scraps are melted and shaped into large ingots of copper. Working beside a sweltering forge at all times, the ingot is set directly into the fire by the artisan and only removed when it is a bright red-hot. The ingot is then swiftly placed on a stump and a group of three men begin pounding on it with sledgehammers while a fourth man rotates the ingot with long pliers. The formation of these pancake sized pieces requires an exhausting amount of effort and only culminates when the outer edge of the "tejo" resembles a large bowl. The bowl is then gradually shaped with mallets and stakes to form the contour of the desired pot -constantly heating it over and over again in the forge to make the copper malleable to the hammering. No casting or molds are used in the process and soldering is generally frowned upon by the artisans. In fact, additional merit is attributed to pieces that are conceived from a single, initial piece of metal - a goal which not all of the artisans can master.
Once the arduous journey of shaping the pot has been reached, an enormous endeavor is bestowed on achieving its ornate finish. Fine hammers are used to chisel intricate decorative patterns onto the metal. And, depending on the desired copper tone the piece is to take, the pot is treated in solutions of sulfuric acid, soap or water, resulting in a masterpiece of worthy admiration.
The complicated details of each handmade copper pot varies, but the approximate time it takes to create each of one of these pieces from inception is three to four weeks.