Voices from Our Travels: La Paz, Bolivia

December 7, 2011Look Travel

Like a bottle of Paceña (the city’s local brew) spilt over the edge of a table, the Bolivian capital of La Paz rolls from the flat highland settlement of El Alto, arrayed along the Andean high plane, and tumbles furiously down the steep-sided valley that marks the beginning of the city proper. In the old center it throws up a froth of colonial buildings, cobbled streets, and raucous markets; farther down, the glittering highrises of Sopocachi; and lower still the posh districts of the Zona Sur, where Katya Astete crafts her jewelery. 

More than 3,000 feet lower in altitude than the highest points of El Alto, Zona Sur is flatter, warmer and calmer than chaotic central La Paz, where most visitors congregate. The districts of Zona Sur – Obrajes, San Miguel and Calacoto amongst others – can be reached easily from the city center via public transportation in 15-30 minutes. Though for now Katya lives farther outside La Paz proper, she is currently seeking a studio space in one of these neighborhoods where she can design, create and display her work.

Katya has been designing jewelry for years, both here in her native La Paz and in southern Argentina, where she lived with her husband until this year. The designs for her different pieces range from the elaborate to the minimalist – a string of pearls encased in handwoven silver mesh, earrings like small silver flower baskets with tiny garnets dangling from the bottom like dew, and brooches inspired by indigenous designs.

The new space that Katya seeks in the Zona Sur will serve as a studio and gallery. In this space, clients will have the opportunity to view Katya’s jewelry from its conceptualization to its completion.

Katya’s son, Jorge, has recently opened his own studio and gallery, Joyas Kasiri, in Sucre, Bolivia’s entrancing constitutional and judicial capital. Like his mother, Jorge creates jewelry from start to finish, using both original designs as well as several that he shares with his mother who taught him much of what he knows today.

Jorge’s spare gallery space occupies two floors in a quiet corner of Sucre’s stunning historic center (Calle Calvo 401, corner of Calle Padilla). Both floors are visible from the small foyer at street level. A half flight leads down to Jorge’s studio. A few steps up, a small grouping of display cases serves as the gallery for his completed work. Jorge, working at the shop most days, will happily show you his work and answer any questions you have about the process of creating it.

No visit to Bolivia would be complete without a visit to the country’s twin capitals, nor without a glimpse of the country’s rich craft tradition. Katya and Jorge Astete combine the best of tradition and the personal vision of the individual artist to create jewelry unique to its place, its creator and, of course, its owner.

To arrange a viewing of Katya’s work, contact her by phone at +56.1.7304.1356 (cellular). To contact Jorge, visit the facebook page for Kasiri Joyas. Time permitting, both Jorge and Katya can create custom pieces at a client’s request.

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