Community, Culture

Ruth Guevara: The versatile Nicoyan artist

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Translator: Arianna Hernández

Ruth Guevara’s art studio was built by her father, Fidel Guevara, seven years ago, when he was 82. It’s a rustic infrastructure with posts and shelves made from light-colored wood, with a large work table and a desk with papers and office items.

Her four dogs, Argus, Kiara, Keyra and Nilah, demand our attention as she tells us her story and shows us her creations.

Ruth Guevara is an empirical artist from Nicoya who makes handicrafts with a Guanacastecan cultural identity. One of the main materials she works with is the jícaro (calabash tree) gourd.

From a very young age, arts and crafts attracted her attention, so her mother always encouraged her to take courses such as fabric painting, sewing and embroidery. For a decade, Ruth worked as a hairstylist and manicurist, but due to health problems, she gradually moved away from aesthetics to dedicate herself completely to making use of her artistic abilities.

In 2017, she created her company, Creaciones Imperio Colonial. She began by making bottles, souvenirs, mugs and office supplies using cold porcelain. The technique also led her to explore her sculpting skills because she began to decorate her creations with shapes of animals, plants, and flowers.

Although she uses gourds as the main basis for her crafts, she also works with fabric dyes, tilapia fish leather, clay, acrylic paint, takes advantage of recycled materials and even does some sewing on some of her gourd jewelry and purses. She is currently learning to work leather and perfecting her pottery techniques.

This Nicoyan artist was selected by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) for its program called “Faces of Tourism,” for which 20 people were selected from different tourism areas nationwide. Of these, only four are from Guanacaste.

It’s a great honor, it’s a blessing and it’s something very valuable to see that your work, even if it’s small, even if it’s a small business venture, is worth it and has the capacity to reach more. And that my product is really admired and valued,” she remarked.

In some publications, Minister of Tourism William Rodríguez has expressed his admiration for Ruth and her work. “It’s admirable to see people like Mrs. Ruth keeping Costa Rican traditions alive,” he wrote in a commentary that showed off her creations.

Protecting Roots

In her pieces, she represents animals, plants and indigenous figures related to Guanacaste. She says that she seeks to keep her roots alive while always looking for a way to appeal to current and modern tastes.

Each piece of gourd is used to make different elements, whether it’s crafts or jewelry, like this scarf ring made from gourd. Photo: César Arroyo

Ruth is convinced that when buying a handmade piece that is not industrially made, the person who buys it tends to be more interested in elements such as the material and the inspiration that led the artisan to create that piece or garment.

I can’t appeal to a [little] girl or a teenage girl with a carved gourd. She isn’t going to give that piece the value it has. So my intention is that, through a product of mine, be it jewelry or a purse, the clientele is interested in knowing a little more about the piece. What’s the story of that purse, what is the jícaro gourd and what is the tradition that it represents?” she relates.

Her creations have crossed borders. Some people who have bought her pieces have taken them as gifts to Brazil, Japan, the United States and soon to Belgium.