Archive for the ‘Profiles’ Category

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New Website!

January 23, 2012

I am in the process of rebuilding my blog in a new format that will give me more flexibility.  You can get to it with my main URL, www.DelgadoArts.com.  But, I thought I should put a note here in case people stumble across the old site here.  THanks for visiting!  Lots of great info on the Spanish Colonial Arts here in Albuquerque.

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PROFILE Albert Delgado

March 16, 2011
Albert Delgado Frame of Saint Patrick Retablo

Framed retablo of Saint Patrick for his daughter, Pat. photo courtesy Pat Delgado ©2011

PROFILE Albert Delgado | Tinsmith | October 23, 1925 – December 4, 1997

Tinsmith with a Heart of Gold

I thought I should start documenting some of the family tinsmiths in the blog.  After recently reconnecting with my second cousin, Pat Delgado, it seemed like the perfect time to profile her father, my Great Uncle Albert Delgado.  I’ve been sick all week, so I interviewed her on the phone to get some insights into Albert as a Delgado Tinsmith.  She immediately sent me some great photos of pieces she owned by her father.  One, a framed retablo of Saint Patrick, seemed perfectly timed to inspire me to report so close to his Feast Day.  I had never tied my cousin’s name to Saint Patrick, but now I see Pat, born on March 18 nearly shares a birthday with Saint Patrick.  This is just the kind of cleverness and humor you might expect from my dear Uncle Albert.

The Delgado tin history begins with my great-great grandfather, Francisco Delgado.  His work defined certain aspects of Spanish Colonial tinwork design.  He handed down his designs and techniques to his son, Ildeberto, who used the craft to claw his way out of the chasm of the Great Depression with the help of the New Deal Era WPA.  Ildeberto and Zenaida Delgado had seven children, all of which studied tinwork to varying degrees.

I Intend to profile each of the children over the next year in my blog.  I’ve already introduced you to one of them, my Grandmother, Angelina Delgado.  Writing these profiles is not only a great way to share the depth of our family history in the Spanish Colonial Arts, but for me to connect on a more intimate level with the stories of these legendary characters of our family through interview and story sharing with other family.

Albert Delgado wearing his Truchas hat

Albert wearing his hat expressing his feelings for his beloved second home in the small town of Truchas, NM

Somewhere in the middle of six other siblings, Albert Peter Delgado was born October 23, 1925.  When Pat gave me his birthday, I made a quip about Albert being a Libra (we have quite a few in the family) and she retorted that he actually liked to think of himself as being more of a Scorpio (as he falls on the cusp).  I wouldn’t have figured him for the horoscope type, but I would certainly characterize him as a Scorpio, with sharp wit and charisma galore.

Pat recently brought some pieces over to my brother’s tin shop for repair.  He worked on them while she waited and they had a chance to catch up.  It was a nice convergent moment for Pat to have Jason, the next generation of Delgado tinsmiths repairing her father’s pieces.  I think it was an honor for both of them in a sense.

I talked to Pat about what she felt Albert’s legacy to Delgado Tin might be and one of the things she had mentioned was his punch designs.  Part of the challenge of becoming a tinsmith is finding ways to make marks on the tin.  You can use a nail or an old screwdriver or blunted chisel.  But, tinsmiths learn quickly that making stamp patterns can save time and refine the finished product.  Uncle Albert had a leg up on original punch-making.

He served a full tour of  four years in the Navy during World War II where he was trained as a machinist.  This early training would influence his later career choice as a trainer at the labs in Los Alamos and developed an expertise in Tool and Die making.  Although, I believe he enjoyed the technical aspects of his 9-5 job, he loved his artistic hobbies.  He was not the most prolific tinsmith of his generation and he was not award-winning.  But, those facts do not accurately reflect his passion for tinwork or his notable talent.  Almost every person I have had contact with in Santa Fe owns at least one piece given to them by Uncle Albert.  He was so generous with his work.  Pat described how he participated in Market more for the social interaction than the income.  His work hangs at Ranchos de Taos, the Old San Isidro Church and in Rosario Chapel, among other notable places around town.  But, even when we were working with the Sacristana of Basillica Saint Francis, Terry Garcia, she pointed out several pieces given to her by Uncle Albert and thought of him with great fondness.  His generosity inspires me to be more giving with my own work.  I think he just liked to bring smiles to peoples faces.  Pat said, “He would give you the shirt off his back.”

Donated by Albert Delgado

The back of one of the Maltese Crosses of Rosario Chapel. photo courtesy Toby Younis ©2011

In addition, Albert gave Jason the fundamental knowledge he needed to learn how to create his own stamps.  I remember it was a rite of passage for my brother, after having struggled trying to make his own stamps for many years, with difficulty.  After Albert’s instruction, Jason was able to mimic some of the family punch designs as well as develop his own signature stamps patterns.  Albert could have simply handed Jason a set of stamps, but I think he knew it was more important to teach a man to fish and I know Jason is ever grateful for that knowledge.

albert delgado brass frame

Two larger pieces by Albert Delgado. photo courtesy Jason Younis ©2011

Besides his signature punches, both Pat and Jason noted Albert for his work with brass.  Although brass does appear on tinwork, it is usually in the form of bollitos, or domed accents that appear at the corner to tidy up joint locations.  But, Albert took the use of brass to a whole new level using entire sheets, as seen in the frame for the angel painting by Dean Delgado [pictured right in photo above].  If tin is Poor Man’s Silver, then maybe Albert’s way with brass gave him the Midas Touch.

“One of the things Albert brought was his very spartan (for Delgado style) aesthetic to his tinwork. He was very careful to be ornate without being overbearing. Angelina’s work always struck him as “gaudy” (his words!). In so doing, he was truer to the earliest tinwork, which tended to be very clean [minimalist] in stamping.”  ~ Jason

But, the one pattern that Pat thought Albert might want to be remembered for is his signature Maltese Cross design that appears on either side of the altar at Rosario Chapel.  I have seen the design since, but I don’t believe it appears before his earliest one.  It is an elegant, well-proportioned pattern.

Maltese crosses of Rosario Chapel

photo courtesy ©2011 Toby Younis

Tin Door by Albert Delgado for Señor Murphys Candy Maker

Tin Door by Albert Delgado for Señor Murphys Candy Maker. photo courtesy Jason Younis copyright ©2011

When I asked Pat to list her personal favorite piece, she listed several, but finally remembered one that stood above the rest–The doors at Señor Murphy Candy Maker (100 East San Francisco Street, Santa Fe).  I was so excited to find out Albert had done these doors.  I wish I had a photo of them and will be sure to take one next time I’m in town to add to this article at a later date.  I have gone through those doors and have so many great memories, much like my memories of Uncle Albert–sweet nuggets of pure joy for life.  UPDATE:  Jason found a partial picture of the door at Señor Murphy’s, so here you go!

Three things that I believe define the iconic Delgado:

  1. A love of giving and receiving knowledge.
  2. An entrepreneurial spirit.
  3. The ability to inspire.

And, it is in all three aspects that I think of my Great Uncle Albert as a classic representation of all that is good in the Delgado lineage.  It was Uncle Albert who set Jason on the correct course in making his own punches.  And, I was certainly inspired in watching him to develop my own artistic hobbies into focused directions.  Albert’s work has a distinctly independent spirit, but shows clear respect for the Delgado traditions taught to him.

As Uncle Albert got up in age, he suffered several strokes that affected the use of his right side.  Despite the handicap, he continued to work with tin, even though he often missed the punch and pounded his own fingers.  He used to ask his girls to, “hold the punch” for him in jest knowing that they would most likely be receiving a blow to their own hands if they should fulfill his request.  This was so typical of Albert’s comedic nature, laughing at those around him and at the same time admiring them.  Pat believed he saw the work as his therapy and conjectures that it helped him stay mentally and physically focused and positive until he could work no longer.

It was such a pleasure to talk with Pat and get her thoughts on the family direction.  I didn’t know that both her and our Great Grandmother Zenaida were part of the Sociedad Folklorica, an organization solely and selflessly dedicated to retaining the unique traditions of our area.  Pat also served on the Fiesta Committee for many years.  Pat was very pleased to see Jason and I continuing the family artistic story and she hopes that in general there is a return to roots.  It was also just nice to hear her manner, as Pat has so much of her father’s directness and sense of humor.

reverse glass painting tin mirror by Albert and Alma

Reverse glass painting collaborative by Albert and Alma. photo courtesy Jason Younis ©2011

Albert and his lovely wife, my wonderfully sweet Aunt Mae have two girls, Alma and Pat.  Both studied tinwork, but neither pursued it after his passing.  Pat remembers spending summers in my Grandmother’s studio, “doing all the dirty work,” as she lovingly put it.  She did all the bending, cutting and physically demanding aspects of the tin making.  But, she knew she didn’t have the passion to continue the tradition.  Although, she did note, if she were called upon to take up the torch, she would gladly do so.  I believe my Mom has a beautiful mirror that was made by Uncle Albert with reverse glass painting by Alma.  I did not have time to interview Alma and it looks like I had plenty to say for now!  But, I will add thoughts from her when I get a chance to catch up.

A note about Saint Patrick:  I may review Saint Patrick in the future, but as far as I can tell, he is not one of the common traditional New Mexican retablo Saints. Although I love this image.  Pat’s retablo was painted by Belarmino Esquibel, an award-winning Spanish Market artist.

Albert Peter Delgado |  Tinsmith
[Son of Ildeberto & Zenaida Delgado]
Brother to my Grandmother, Angelina Delgado
October 23, 1925 – December 4, 1997

Don’t forget, New Mexican Santera airs tonight at 9:00PM presenting the last half of the Santa Barbara retablo!
Comcast Encantada Channel 26 Albuquerque, Channel 16 Santa Fe.