Website & places you can find my work online
Where I am
On the Eastern Shore of VA between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic. Onancock, Va is on the bay side of the shore.
Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
I came to the United States in 1971, arriving in New York City on my birthday (January 21st) with only $200 in my pocket, not speaking any English, and took my first job in a bakery in Brooklyn because that was my profession: I was trained as a pastry chef.
My father was a baker and I started going to work with him when I was 8-years-old and so I knew how to bake bread from him. I grew up in Rosario, Argentina which is the second (to Buenos Aires) largest city and I left for the capital at the age of 17.
I landed my first job as a pastry chef at a seaside hotel in San Clemente del Tuyu. I married young and was everything from a hairdresser to a cab driver to support my wife and 2 young children and then I decided to come to America to find another way.
It was economics more than anything. I worked for $50 a week and got permission to sleep downstairs in the basement at night to save a little money to send home. Eventually, I remarried again and we began a leather design business. We made enough at art shows during the seventies to buy a house in Upstate New York, which we turned into a Bed & Breakfast called “L’Esquina” or the corner.
Two more children later, that marriage dissolved and I moved to the Eastern Shore where I had 2 very good friends from the arts and crafts movement and I decided to open a restaurant here in Onancock. That was in 1988. It was a little restaurant on the corner with outdoor patio dining and a garden and we played jazz and drank a lot of wine. When I sold that in 2004 I opened another restaurant across the street (on the corner) and 6 months later I sold that one too.
I always told my best (and last) wife that I would go back to my jewelry one day. I always kept my tools.
When did you first start making jewelry?
Well, that was back in 1972 and it kind of overlapped with my leather work. I probably did it from 1972-1976. No more than that.
Did the horseshoe nails come first or the art?
I’d have to say the nails and the art came out of what else they could become.
What inspired you to use such a unique medium?
A friend of mine, Oscar Pardo, was doing that kind of work and I really, really liked it.
How did you learn the techniques you use?
Again, Oscar Pardo. We did not keep in touch after the seventies and one day I was going through my old vinyl Lps and found one that he had cut called, “El Grupo: Songs and Poetry of the Latin American Struggle.” I asked my wife to look him up on the internet.
We couldn’t find him in particular and then we thought to read the fine print on the back of the album cover which said, “For more information contact the Center for Cuban Studies” in NY. We looked them up on the internet and found that they still existed and when we called the person that answered said that we’d have to ask a woman who wasn’t in till the next day.
Her name was also on the album cover and when we spoke the next day she told me that he was in Puerto Rico, married to a lawyer, is a painter now and he often exhibits in NY. I called him and now we’re in touch often. Sorry I missed his last show in NY this past May but I know we’ll meet again.
Who are your main artistic influences?
Picasso. Charlie Chaplin. Jazz – Miles Davis, Chet Baker – that’s art.
Are you a horse lover as well?
Funny question because Argentina is famous for Polo and horses but, no. I was never much around them. However, we have done a few horse shows and at the last one in Richmond, VA I saw the most amazingly beautiful black Fresian stallion and the way he moved and interacted with his trainer was absolutely breathtaking to watch. I think that’s made me a vicarious horse lover.
Do you (or did you) have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
Not just one animal! We have 2 dogs, 5 hens, 8 ducks, 3 ducklings, 3 house cats (and we feed 14 stray cats/kittens) and a cockatiel. All of the pieces are named after family members or pets. Just off the top of my head Koko, Allegria, and Pastis are just a few named after pets.
Each one has their own personality!
Do you have any secret rituals you do to help you get in the zone for your work?
Ever since I can remember I have my Bustelo coffee in the morning and I go out to my studio at 9am. I work until lunch and then I take a 2 hours siesta, return to work at 4pm and then I’m in for dinner at 5. I take an afternoon coffee break out in the garden under a tree in the summer and in the winter I watch a little tv.
And the night before I do an art show, everything is packed and ready to go and I have a beautiful, relaxing dinner. This is my constitution forever.
What effect do you think the Internet will have on handmade jewelry?
I hope that it makes people give pause to the beauty of craftsmanship and artisan processes. It certainly makes it easier for them to access. You don’t have to go down to a gallery or a show to find them anymore and it makes shopping a lot less bothersome.
But, myself – and I don’t think I’m alone – I find that because art is so multi-dimensional there will always be a place for the live venue. In the digital age photographs can reach out and grab you but there’s still nothing like the real thing.
Anyone who has stood in awe in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre can tell you that.
Has it had an effect on yours?
Yes, of course. We have sales throughout the US, the UK, the Netherlands, all over and those are customers that probably wouldn’t make it to one of my shows or galleries that display my work.
I also find that it gives people the ability to “preview” my work before a show. They’ll come into my booth and know exactly which piece they want because they saw it on my site. Or maybe they’ll buy nothing at all but they read that I’m Argentine (actually a US citizen now) or that I live on the Eastern Shore of VA and they just want to say hi. Some come just to tell me that they remember my restaurant!
Which one is your personal favorite piece?
For sale, it’s called Paula. I just love the way it falls. Another is one that I have only one of and it hangs in my studio. It actually has no name.
Would you ever sell it?
The one in my studio? Never.
What else are you passionate about?
I forgot to say that once upon a time I used to race bicycles. So – bicycling, gardening, jazz, sharing good food and wine with friends. People. And animals!
Working on anything new?
Yes, I’m currently working on an exclusive line that will be in my galleries, leaving the pieces on the site just for that and shows. I think it’s fairer to the galleries who have been kind enough to pick up my work to not overlap.
More to Come
Thanks to Armando for answering the interview and sharing his work. Be sure to check out his jewelry website periodically for updates about his latest works.
Also stay tuned for more interviews with horse artists and photographers.
Are you a horse artist or do you know an equine artist you’d like to see featured? Add your name and website in the comments below or drop me a note to get involved.