With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, and libraries like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.
Yaira Jorge Mercado creates jewelry utilizing the Japanese technique of origami.
What got you into jewelry and accessories?
In 2016, I had a planned trip for Cuba. However, my earnings as a teacher were not sufficient to complete the trip. Thus, one day, while I was in my classroom, I started making paper earrings. Then, when I wore them for a practice in the Escuela de Bomba de Mayagüez my friends loved them and suggested I made them for sale. Ever since then, Pisapapel emerged as a form of expression and extra income.
How did you develop your style?
It has been super experimental and done in a do-it-yourself fashion. I’ve designed my style with a lot of practice and by watching many YouTube videos. First, I followed popular patterns, classic origami and little by little I’ve developed my own style.
How has it evolved through the years?
It’s had various forms. I started using magazine and scrapbooking paper. In addition, the models were very circumscribed to the popular origami forms such as swans, cranes, elephants, boats, etc. However, little by little I’ve experimented with other classic forms such as feathers, leaves, fans, planes, etc. I also incorporated Japanese paper specifically made for origami. Currently, most of the pieces are done with paper I painted myself. The development of the pieces has also taken into consideration clients and what they like. Through the years, I’ve dedicated myself to observing and taking into consideration my favorite styles by others. There are styles that no longer exist, such as swans and elephants, but there are also pieces that existed forever like big fans. Other changes have come in the sizes. In the beginning they were very small (1-2 inches). However, now they are 3 or 4 inches.
What are some of your influences and inspirations?
One of my biggest influences is my dad. He’s an artisan focused on wood works and ever since I was a kid I’ve seen his work all over my house. While, I don’t work in the same field as my father, all of it inspired me and helped me stay interested in the arts, which contributed to me finding origami.
Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?
Yes, I would love to continue working on my execution of Puerto Rican bomba. Thanks to the Escuela de Bomba de Mayagüez I have discovered other talents such as singing, dancing and playing instruments related to the art form. Bomba performance is another form of expression that I love because it makes me feel free and explore other ways to express myself.
What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?
I think it’s alarming. Ever since I started being a teacher, I’ve seen how each year dance, theatre, visual arts and music classes in our schools are being eliminated leaving our students without education, which to me should be essential and enriching because they help channel emotions and discover new talents. I’ve also seen how many doors have been closed for local talent. I think there should be more education in the arts, not only for people to express themselves, but also to strengthen our national identity. People need to understand and appreciate our arts, to not devalue our actors and actresses, movies, artisans, but respect the work that everybody does with love.
What do you think about the current state of the independent scene in Puerto Rico?
I think the work done by the independent scene is a great way to keep the arts in Puerto Rico alive. I admire many people who have taken the chance and dedicated themselves to their work and have not waited for the government to help them, those who have made art their tool for working and have shared it others. In addition, the independent art scene has opened the doors for many artists and that’s fantastic and honorable. I think being an independent artist today is one of the most revolutionary things one can do in our country.
If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?
I would tell her to learn as much as possible. I would tell her to get to know herself, find her own identity and what makes her happy. I would tell her that like is a continuous learning process and that we’re not stuck in one place. I would tell her to experiment with various art forms until she finds the one that makes her happy.
What is your biggest goal right now?
Dedicate myself to the arts and make my full-time job.
What do you seek to achieve with work?
I want to continue developing my work. In addition, I would like to elaborate more abstract and complex origami. I would also like to collaborate with more artists from other areas.