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Market Exchange: Carmela Morales

By Brian Rojas

For this series, we are highlighting local Santa Monica artisans that are part of the Market Exchange project, initiated and facilitated by the artists Cog•nate Collective. Market Exchange is a collaboration between Santa Monica artisans and Cog•nate Collective that creates platforms for empowerment by establishing alternative economic forms of self-determination for local crafts people and small businesses. This collaboration is dedicated to honoring the richness of artisan production in Santa Monica towards developing a community-envisioned and community-directed marketplace that will amplify the works of local artisans and artists, while providing sustainable economic opportunities. You can learn more and purchase artisanal products at marketexchange.18thstreet.orgIn this post, we highlight artist Carmela Morales.

Carmela Morales, who was born in Mexico and now lives in Santa Monica, creates intricate flowers out of paper. When she was a child, her grandparents taught her how to make party decorations out of crepe and tissue paper. For example, on Day of the Dead, she and her grandparents would decorate the dance halls entirely with tissue paper flowers and chains. Carmela also recalls her mother sending her to the store on birthdays to buy tissue paper and make chains to decorate the entire house. The tradition began with her grandparents teaching her, and Carmela now teaches her daughter at home, as well as many others. It was even a school tradition for her teacher to have students make flowers and place them along the classroom walls. Climate change is a big concern for Carmela. She wishes to show how paper can be used as a primary decoration rather than balloons and other plastic materials because it can be recycled more easily. Another reason Carmela loves teaching these traditions is because it’s a way to keep a part of her culture alive. She wants to bring value and respect to these sacred traditions.

Paper flowers created by Carmela Morales, 2021.
Paper flowers created by Carmela Morales, 2021.

Interview Highlights with Carmela Morales

¿Y que le gustaría que la comunidad supiera sobre su práctica cultural? 

Pues que me gusta me gustaría que ellos conocieran un poquito más de lo que es mi cultura mexicana y que la llevarán a cabo pero con como con gusto pues que la mantuvieran que esa tradición se mantuviera aquí porque en mi país como que se ha perdido un poquito un poquito la tradición es por ejemplo ahora en las fiestas la gente ya no ocupa este tipo de material para hacer sus fiestas ahora ya como ya vieron que el globo o los papeles papeles los las papeles de colores que no se pueden reciclar son mejores que las flores de papel entonces se ya no se ocupa tanto esto entonces yo quiero que ellos conozcan mi cultura pero que a la misma vez pues la continúe pues la sigan proyectando que no se pierda.

Works by Carmela Morales. Photo by Geoff Palomino.
Works by Carmela Morales. Photo by Geoff Palomino.

What would you like the community to know about your cultural practice? 

I would like them to know a little more about what my Mexican culture is. Also how gladly they would maintain that tradition here because in my country it has been lost a little bit and the tradition is a good example now for parties in order for people to no longer use the current type of materials to make their parties now as they have already seen that the balloon or colored papers that cannot be recycled. The paper flowers are better and I want them to know my culture but at the same time to continue it because it will continue a project so that it does not get lost.

Works by Carmela Morales. Photo by Geoff Palomino.
Works by Carmela Morales. Photo by Geoff Palomino.

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