Exploring Chile’s arts and crafts is one of the best ways to get to know its culture. The work of artisans reflects both the native materials available and the particular crafting style of a region.
The outdoor crafts market Los Dominicos Artisan Center, open all year round in eastern Santiago, sells a wide variety of high quality offerings, largely influenced by Chile’s indigenous culture.
From iconic Mapuche jewelry, to warm woolen ponchos from Chiloé’s islands and classic pottery from the town of Pomaire, this market has it all and more.
The market is set distinctively in a converted monastery, which lends it the feel of an independent village.
Wandering into the main thoroughfare, children are often huddled around the rabbits and guinea pigs on sale, as well as parrots and birds of all kinds in the large aviary.
Continuing along the nature trail, it is worth stopping at Art Rayen, on the right hand side. A family-owned business, this small shop offers anything from plates, wine glasses, spoons, fruit bowls, coasters, vases and trays, decorated with real pressed fruits, vegetables and flowers that have been intricately incorporated into the glass.
Its owner, Carmen Espinoza, revealed the history of this unusual craft shop.
“My family has been in this business for 25 years. Initially, we started with just the trays, our classic, but now we design anything our customers want, from cutlery, to mirrors or picture frames. We actually get a lot of people placing customized orders nowadays,” Espinoza told This is Chile.
It’s difficult not to marvel at the delicate form and colors of oranges, cherry skins and even avocados pressed and preserved against the glass so elegantly.
“We section the fruits into very thin slices and then seal them immediately, incorporating them into the glass before they ripen and lose the intensity of their colors. We’ve worked with anything from oranges, to mangos, to broccoli and roses. Our trays and cheese boards are made of manayo, a fine wood that is smooth to touch,” Espinoza explained.
Further along, a variety of shops offering indigenous Mapuche products can be found, such as the characteristically large jewelry made of copper and the famous lapis lazuli deep blue stone, or tupo”, a traditional, large pendant, often used on ponchos.
A nearby shop, Cordillerana, is part of a non-profit organisation, Artesanas Chilenas Debuenafe. The aim is to exclusively sell products handmade by low-income women that live outside large cities, as a means of supporting them.
The young woman working in the shop explained the philosophy in detail to This is Chile.
“Our products mainly come from the south of Chile, from regions such as Araucanía and Los Lagos. We want to help female artisans who are gifted but do not have the means to travel and sell their products, to prevent them from giving up on their craft,” she said. “This helps ensure that these important traditions are not lost over time.”
The beautifully laid-out shop includes many woolen treats, including warm ponchos, slippers, gloves and socks. More imaginative materials such as ojos de choclo, corn leaves, are used to make small angel figurines, as well as the traditional “telar” material used in decorative curtains.
Other interesting features of the market include clay pots from the famous pottery town of Pomaire, a Bonsai tree garden in the Sala de Exposiciones and numerous woodwork tallers.
These tallers are the workshops of the artisans themselves, where they can be seen carving away at Mapuche figurines, cups and indigenous masks.
Towards the end of the route, an impressive stone oven is used to bake fresh empanadas, best enjoyed in the small round tables in the middle of the small square just opposite.
Restaurant Antulicán, located outdoors in the Plaza Mayor area of the market, serves heartwarming traditional Chilean food, including Pastel de Choclo, Chorillana and Cazuela, a great way to end a day of shopping!
To get to the artisan center, get off at the Los Dominicos station, Metro line L1. Walk straight ahead coming out of the entrance, along Avenida Apoquindo.
In the distance, you won’t miss the green twin domes atop the towers of the San Vicente Ferrer Church, declared a National Monument in 1983, with the entrance to the artisan market just to the right.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday from 10:00 to 20:00 hrs
By Daphne Karnezis