Spratling, William (1900–1967) By Morrill, Penny
North American architect, artist, silversmith, and author William Spratling left an active artists’ community in New Orleans’ French Quarter in 1928 to join a circle of intellectuals in Mexico City. Spratling’s desire to stay in Mexico, coupled with the cultural and economic changes that were taking place as a result of the Mexican 1910 revolution, led Spratling to establish a small silver workshop in Taxco. From his perspective, this small mountain town had been producing silver for hundreds of years without benefiting its own people. This tiny workshop, the Taller de Las Delicias, in which craftsmen produced silver jewelry and decorative objects, tinware, and woven textiles, rapidly developed into a large-scale handwrought industry. Spratling’s success was dependent on five key ingredients: the presence of a designer/director; the workshop setting in which advancement was based on accomplishment; the use of traditional materials that were locally available; designs based on pre-Columbian art and contemporary folk crafts; and the development of a market for Mexican silver. His lasting contributions are his powerful works in silver, his donation of hundreds of pre-Columbian objects to museums in Mexico, and the training of silversmiths and maestros, many of whom established their own workshops based on his model.