"Our greatest dream is to grow, to create new designs, to become known throughout the world and, in this way, to benefit more artisans."
Founded in the 1980s, the Group for Integral Rehabilitation was born during the most difficult years in El Salvador's civil war. It arose in response to the lack of opportunities for education and jobs for people with different kinds of handicaps. Equal access to opportunities was limited.
To take advantage of members' abilities, a workshop was established to teach ceramic techniques and preserve a cultural tradition. Ceramic offer a wide range of possibilities for the development of skills, no matter how severe the disability. The workshop is named Shicali in the Náhuatl language and refers to the fruit of the gourd tree. Cut in half, these gourds are widely used as bowls.
The initial learning process lasted two years, and master ceramicists from Japan, France, Mexico and other countries participated. The students learned each stage of production to decide which in area they were best suited to work. However, they can still continue learning and working in other areas, as the learning process is constant and continuous.
Most of the artisans have severe hearing problems. Those who received the initial training now teach the new members. Over the years, they have developed excellent craft techniques and are able to help their families economically. In addition, their self esteem is quite high because, despite their physical limitations, they have cultivated new skills and are useful, productive members of society.
Some artisans have been members of the group for more than 20 years. All of them have a voice and vote in decision-making, and many of them are design artists. All are very creative, perseverant and proud of the work they do.
"Although we've had some tough times, we've overcome the difficulties thanks to everyone's enthusiasm," they say. "And we have received spontaneous help from a number of people and organizations who have helped us get ahead. Our greatest dream is to grow, to create new designs, to become known throughout the world and, in this way, to benefit more artisans.
"Ceramic art is beautiful. It permits each artisan to create something new with his or her own hands, to seek beauty of form and harmony of color. What excites us the most is when we take the pieces out of the kiln to finalize the process because we never know exactly what they'll look like after being fired at high temperatures. Through ceramics, we've realized that we all have gifts and that these need to be discovered, developed and shown to the world.
Thanks to the hard work of all the artisans, we received second place in the handicraft category of El Centro Cultural de El Salvador.
"When you purchase our designs, you are contributing to the economic, personal and emotional life of people with some kind of physical limitation. This gives them the opportunity to generate income, feel productive and continue developing their artistic abilities."