Monday, June 15, 2015

One way to earn a living in Chiclayo

There are a lot of different ways to earn a living in Chiclayo; some of them perhaps unique to Peru while others are standard throughout the world. Learning about the different and often unusual things people do to earn their daily bread in Chiclayo is an interesting pastime for me.

This is Walter. He is a furniture maker, a career he began 27 years ago at the same location. If there’s anything unusual about Walter’s job, it’s that he works mostly with rebar (reinforcing bar to strengthen concrete) and plastic cord. Walter’s production is split about evenly between customer order and make-to-stock. He produces on average 10 pieces per week but can do more if demand is there. All of the work-in-process material stays in the street overnight. He ties it together to prevent theft.

Walter’s raw material comes from various sources. Plastic cord is bought in spools from the central market. The metal can be either from used furniture he has purchased or new rebar bought at one of the home-improvement stores. He cuts, shapes, welds and paints the metal himself. He also weaves the cord. He will build to customer design or create something of his own. He said that he has no patterns; that the metal shapes and cord color schemes just come into his head while working.

Those pieces that he makes for stock will either sit in front of his house to be purchased by passersby, or Walter will sell them himself in the central market or to small furniture stores. The furniture is surprisingly sturdy and long lasting, as well as inexpensive. The chair in this photo is priced at $4.75; the stools $3.25. The black and yellow ‘sofa’ in the top photo, which took him 2 ½ hours to weave sells for $57, the pink circular chair for $25.

Walter starts work early in the morning, and his welding torch can often be seen late at night. He said no one taught him how to make furniture; it’s something that he experimented with as a young man and seemed to have a knack for. Making furniture is what he does…what he likes to do. He has kids but they’re not interested in working with him or continuing the business. But Walter is a young 56 and I expect we’ll see him making furniture for years to come.

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