Wiracocha Galería Taller, a part of the Qarmenqa Ceramic Cultural Center located in Cusco, is a pottery workshop dedicated to upholding the ceramics traditions and ancient techniques of the Andean and Amazonian cultures of Peru.
Before opening the gallery, the founder, Máximo Champi Palomino, studied the development of creativity and the traditional tools, techniques and materials used to create authentic pieces. Today, he passes on his knowledge by teaching students, young people and tourists how to create clay pots, whistling vessels, incense boxes, vases, ornaments and musical instruments.
“The clay is exactly the same clay that my ancestors used. I prepare it myself and add it to sand, stone and volcanic rock,” he shared.
For Máximo, social media is an efficient and cost-effective way to disseminate the knowledge that he has gathered about ancient techniques and their cultural significance. As an art education instructor at Escuela Superior Autonoma Bellas Artes, the School of Fine Arts of Cusco, he also utilizes video conferencing platforms to conduct virtual workshops and courses for students outside of Peru, including Argentina, Chile, Mexico, France and Italy.
Open access to internet tools has enabled Máximo to digitally archive his creative and historical work, preserving web-based resources for the future.
“We have a registry of absolutely everything we do. We have a photo registry that we load on Facebook. For example, we have completed documentation on how to produce molds: how to do the molds, and now we are working on ancestral sounds with musical instruments,” he explained.
Through the power of social media, Máximo is able to digitally share his work around the world, simultaneously elevating the traditions of his culture and boosting sales.
Social media also proved to be an important channel for finding customers and sparking interest with tourists. “With Facebook, I post the information and the processes. And many tourists come here, and I want them to come to my workshop to show them the full process,” he said. “The customers who buy the most pieces come from Europe from Switzerland, Germany from France. And many who visit the workshop are from the United States, Colombia, Mexico, Chile and Argentina. That’s because they come directly through my posts.”
Máximo has just started to leverage YouTube and other third-party platforms tools to further increase visibility. He has posted an introductory video on his personal channel and was featured in a segment on “Cusco: A great experience through clay,” distributed by the team at the Cuzco Eats website.
He also showcases and sells this work on the e-commerce marketplace, Santurantikuy Fair, the virtual platform for the largest popular art fair in Peru.
Before the pandemic, Máximo used to rely heavily on attending fairs and events to expand his business. “I did not export much before the pandemic, now I have carried out shipments to Mexico and to Ecuador,” he explained.
With in-person events no longer an option, he started to post and engage even more on social platforms. “I got calls from Chile and Mexico, they wanted me to sell to them–lots of new people got to know me and then I received invitations to go to exhibits in Bolivia, Argentina and Spain.”
“I have to tell you, Facebook does work, it’s very public. Lots of people get to know you and that’s fantastic. I was contacted by people in Japan and Russia, I couldn’t believe it,” Máximo noted.
Due to the response and attention that was generated by using Facebook and Instagram to document his work, he now has plans to open additional workshops.
“We have a registry of absolutely everything we do. We have a photo registry that we load on Facebook. For example, we have completed documentation on how to produce molds: how to do the molds, and now we are working on ancestral sounds with musical instruments.”
“The main purpose of social media, in the beginning, was to educate the public, especially in the process and the techniques. But after some time, I realized that this could be used to educate new customers,” Máximo recounted.
Moving forward, Máximo encouraged policymakers to reduce the obstacles that entrepreneurs have to navigate through to access assistance. “There are support projects available, but the whole system is full of hurdles, full of requirements,” he commented. “I would tell the government to support the young entrepreneurs because young people are the future.”