In 1991, I was working in Ecuador for the Swiss foreign aid agency "SWISSCONTACT" teaching blacksmithing classes. In the town of Cuenca, I got introduced to a man by the name of Manuel Guerra who was making chestlocks, doorlocks, padlocks and other hardware in a tradition carried on from medieval times. I fell in love with his work and actually asked myself what I was doing, teaching forgework in a place that had its own longstanding tradition. But such is the irony of life, and while I continued giving my evening classes, Manuel allowed me to come in during the days and work with him. He taught me the making of a padlock similar to the one shown above.
It was in his shop that I first met Fausto Cardoso, a Cuenca architect and community worker who has become a dear friend since then. Later this relationship lead to the involvement with the Plaza del Herrero, a project honoring the ancient neighborhood of the blacksmiths.
The black and white pictures below were taken by Fausto Cardoso and sponsored by a grant from the California Blacksmiths Association.
The color shots are by me and show some of the last work Manuel Guerra produced before his early death in 1997. The large chestlock was a piece he was particularly proud of, and I feel honored to have it in my collection.
Today his work is beeing carried on under his daughter Lourdes and with the help of his former apprentices.
(Helmut Hillenkamp, Santa Fe, New Mexico/USA, August2000)