The Finca Cantaros Crafts Store was opened in early 1994 by Gail Hewson (now Gail Hewson Hull) to sell crafts from Central and South America but especially crafts made by the indigenous people in Costa Rica: primarily masks and woven bags and place mats from the Boruca; woven fiber bags from the Guaymi/Nbobe Buglé tribes.
Among our most popular items are Costa Rican wood crafts made by Ticos (as Costa Ricans refer to themselves): bowls, cutting boards, painted mugs, jiggers, vases, boxes and small carved animals and birds. None of the trees used by the craftspeople are endangered species.
Also popular are ceramic tiles with wildlife images and handmade ceramic coffee mugs made in Costa Rica which say “San Vito”, “Costa Rica” or “Pura Vida.” And some of the best local coffee as well as chocolate and other food specialties made in Costa Rica are also available.
Other Central American crafts
The Wounaan and Embera people of the richly forested Darien province of Panama, the southernmost territory bordering Colombia, are renowned for their baskets and wood carvings. The women work with various palm fibers to create their extraordinary tightly woven baskets with animal, plant or remarkable geometric designs. They create their own dyes using plants and special clays, and even medium-size baskets can take many days to create.
The men carve animals from Dalbergia retusa, a tree whose common name is cocobolo, often called rosewood in English. It is endemic to Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. Artisans working with cocobolo are knowledgeable about sustainability, and dealers state that craftspeople use fallen, dead trees as their sources. In Costa Rica some highly respected artisans own their own land, protect their forests, and maintain nurseries so they can sell seedlings to others.
The store also sells the colorful molas that are hand-stitched by the women of the Kuna tribe of the San Blas Islands, an archipelago of some 300 islands on the north coast of Panama. The molas have several layers of fabric and nearly invisible stitching. They usually depict animals and plants in largely symmetrical designs, but sometimes depict mythical figures such as devils. Most people who buy the molas frame them or create pillows or handbags out of them. Mola actually means blouse in the Kuna language; the women wear their handiwork on both the front and back of their blouses.
Vegetable ivory is also featured in the store—the magnificent carvings of the Wounaan and Embera people made from palm seeds called tagua. Tagua are abundant and harvesting them does no harm to the palm, so carving the nuts is a very sustainable craft favored by conservationists. The durability of the white, dense, hard seed makes it comparable to ivory; it also slowly yellows with time as ivory does. Carvers in recent years have begun painting the animals, though some collectors prefer the natural white designs.
Proceeds from the store help support tree planting and maintenance of the Finca grounds.
We are always looking for interesting new handmade crafts and invite artists to contact us by phone or email.