Crisil Glassware: Meet Gregorio and Concepcion

Whether you’re partial to an ice cool soft drink under the blazing summer sun, or you can think of nothing better than putting your feet up in the evening with a relaxing glass of wine, one thing’s for sure, you’re going to need a beautifully crafted set of drinking vessels in your kitchen cupboard – which is exactly where Crisil come in!

Crisil is a family-run social enterprise based in Cochabamba, Bolivia, who create timeless glassware made from 100% recycled glass, washed and processed in eco-friendly conditions. Set up in the early ‘90s by two brothers, Carlos and Walter Bustos, Crisil’s mission has always been to create beautiful and functional glassware with the environment at the heart of everything they do. Crisil utilises traditional methods of production, to satisfy the requirements of national and international markets. During the glass making process, glass is broken into tiny pieces, washed in clean water, and then melted in the natural gas furnace. In order to preserve natural resources and minimize waste, the artisans are always sure to use as little water as possible during this step. The glass becomes a stretchy, viscose mass, which is mouth-blown and shaped into cups, jugs, ornaments, and all manner of innovative glass pieces.

As well as caring for the environment by using completely recycled materials and implementing heating recirculation systems to use less gas for the kilns, Crisil focuses a great deal on job security and working conditions for their artisans.

There are 90 artisan glassworkers in total at Crisil, but support from Crisil reaches much further, touching the lives of over 500 families in the region. All glassworkers are given up to date training, accident insurance, and ongoing learning opportunities to develop their craft skills. The workshops are places of collaboration, where glassworkers, regardless of class, place of origin or gender, can produce works of art together. This makes for a completely diverse workforce, with people from many different social groups and ethnic backgrounds coming together to share their skills.

Quote about Crisil fair trade glassware

It is at this point in our journey that we headed to Cochabamba in Bolivia, to meet husband and wife Gregorio Yupanqi and Concepcion Ramos, whose lives have dramatically changed since they started packing and hand-making wine glasses and jugs with Crisil, over a decade ago. Gregorio previously worked in a similar factory, for another glass making company in La Paz, and found that he wasn’t guaranteed regular wages, making life for him and his family pretty tough indeed. He decided to make the move to Crisil in Cochabamba, because the salary in the factories there were much better, there were many more opportunities for work and jobs were more stable.

Gregorio told us that sometimes the owners of other factories did not have the money to pay their employees every week, so often they were given the equivalent amount of pay but in glass, and they were made to go and sell it to make up their wage. He recalled having to lower the price of its worth when trying to sell the glass, meaning he was not getting anything close to the money he was owed.

“If we got 200 bolivianos in glass to sell because that was our salary, we were not able to make more than 150, so we lost 50 bolivianos. So, at that time we were working only to eat because there was no possibility of saving any money.”

A photo of one of the Crisil employees working

This is not the case with Crisil, which is one of the main reasons Gregorio is so content working at his current position. He told us that he has worked his way up since starting his career at Crisil, as he began over 10 years ago as a junior glassblower, but showed interest in making wine glasses and putting the base on the stem which is a more specialist skill, and the training he received has allowed him to achieve this. His hopes for the future are to work for a few more years with Crisil, who have helped him develop no end, and then maybe open a small workshop of his own and provide a cushion for the future of his family.

Gregorio’s wife, Concepcion has been working for Crisil for fewer years than Gregorio, and tells us she’s much happier working for Crisil than she was previously. In years gone by, before her last child was born, Concepcion was one of the many street sellers in Cochabamba, which involved a lot of walking around the streets, often with very little sales taking place.

Some tiled images of Crisil glassware workers

Now, she is part of the team that packs the glasses for Crisil and, together with her husband, has been able to save enough money to build their own home, which they have located close to the Crisil factory. Much of the components which they used to build their home included recycled materials from the old Crisil factory roof, which has been raised and replaced to create a cooler working environment for the workers. The couple also have enough electricity in their home to provide lighting, television and a running fridge, which is quite uncommon in the outskirts of Cochabamba, and a reflection of the fair pay that Crisil gives its employees. Instead of having to source and dry wood for cooking, they now use bottled gas instead. There is no running water in the area where Gregorio and Concepcion live, but local residents hope that a project will provide a supply in the future. Instead, those who can afford it, like Gregorio and Concepcion, have water delivered by lorry, which they store in a drum.

We asked Gregorio and Concepcion what they do to celebrate Christmas, and they told us that it all depends on how much money they have at the time, as food prices tend to be very high, but they try to always save enough for milk and chocolate (making a delicious, warming hot chocolate drink) and bunuelos (a traditional type of fritter) to have on Christmas Eve. As well as a bonus in salary, Crisil gives each of its workers a hamper at Christmas that includes a chicken, bottle of wine and toys for any children aged 12 or under, meaning that Gregorio and Concepcion get two hampers, which they told us really makes a difference over the festivities. The gift is presented in a large bowl, so even the container can be put to good use once the contents are used.

Crisil quote about bonuses for staff

The couple told us that their four children are their main priority in life, and they long to give them a bright and promising future, which is possible when they work for Crisil. School fees in this area are very high, and as the school that their children attend is new, the couple have had to contribute towards the construction of the building. As well as this, they have had to provide school uniforms and all of their equipment such as notebooks, pens and pencils. This has been very costly, but has been possible due to their regular Crisil income. Their desire for the future is that their children will be well educated, and the couple are trying their hardest to provide them with everything they need to succeed.

If you’ve been inspired by the couple’s success story and want to take a look through Crisil products made by people like Gregorio and Concepcion, take a look at our Crisil glassware

Published at: 28-03-2019
Tags: Crisil Glassware Recycled Glass Fair Trade Glasses Wine Glasses Glass Tumblers Cochabamba Bolivia