For many years, in Sayula, in the state of Jalisco, the trade of making knives has been carried out. The difference is that those here have stopped being cutting instruments to become authentic works of art.
Hearing the word Sayula is likely to come to mind the name of Juan Rulfo, it is in this place where, it is said, the author of Pedro Páramo was born. However, the people of Jalisco are also famous because the job of making knives has been going on for many years. The difference is that those here have stopped being cutting instruments to become authentic works of art.
José Ojeda Larios was born listening to hammer blows. Don Josecito, as they say in his native Sayula, Jalisco, was raised in an old family of blacksmiths and the trade he learned from his uncle Salvador at a very young age. At age nine he already produced and sold his first daggers.
Don José is now 87 years old and, behind him, a legacy that has earned him recognition as one of the most outstanding knife artisans in our country. Today the works of art of his workshop can be admired and acquired in “Cuchillos Ojeda”.
The stillness of the town of Sayula – located an hour and a half south of Guadalajara – makes it difficult for the first-time visitor to imagine that among its inhabitants is a lineage of artisans who have achieved a master’s degree in the manufacture of knives. A talent that matches world class.
Cuchillos Ojeda is located on Daniel Larios Street, in the center of Sayula, where there are also shops and workshops of other local artisans. Knives are made in the Ojeda’s workshop, but also swords, machetes, canes, cutlery and even ninjas stars (shurikens).
Each of the pieces, made in a conscientious way and one hundred percent handmade, goes through a process that goes from cutting the steel, to the polishing of the handle.
Experimentation and legacy
Rafael and José, sons of Don Josecito, inherited from their father the knowledge to elaborate these objects and, in turn, they have inherited it to their children. With the new ideas of these generations, the workshop has become one of experimentation and, consequently, the knife has ceased to be cutting instruments, to become pieces of art treasured by collectors. Thus, when starting a new copy the creativity of the manufacturer who does not make two equal pieces is tested.
The search for perfection in each piece has resulted in the incorporation of materials for such fine handles as jade stones, turquoise or lapis lazuli; or more exotic such as parakeet wings, ivory, viper or frog skins.
Such expertise is reinforced with another: that of the engraving craftsman Carlos Camarena, who collaborates with the Ojeda workshop. The fusion of both talents is reflected in the culmination of inimitable works of virtuous artists.
Most of the time, the extraordinary scenes engraved on the metal sheet are made at the request of the collector and evoke from country landscapes with horses, birds and plants to medieval environments with dragons and symbols.
But not only collectible knives are made here. Also the pieces of the Ojeda brand are already part of some of the best international kitchens, because the sales catalog also incorporates basic sets of kitchen knives, taqueros, boning, ham, cheese makers, axes and cutlery of table.
In addition, Cuchillos Ojeda, not finding a saddler who met their demands for quality and design, also decided to start his own workshop of saddlery. Some of the products made by artisan hands are cases for chefs, leather cases and belts with a buckle-knife.
The art of making knives, carried out by this family, has gained more and more followers. So it is not uncommon that today they receive calls from celebrities, politicians, important collectors and foreigners interested in acquiring their knives.
Don Josecito, as his clients tell him – some coming from far away – likes to talk about how he started in this occupation when there was still no electricity and when he was frustrated, because he was hammering instead of going to school, almost It makes him abandon the hard trade.
It is not necessary to listen to it for a long time to realize its wisdom, that which is only achieved on the basis of suffering, zeal and courage. That has led him to lead a generation of artisans who are putting the names of Sayula and Mexico very high.