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Cult shop: a journey across Argentina in artisanal objects

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On a recent sourcing trip, Martin Bustamante climbed into his truck and drove the 1,200km north from Buenos Aires to Misiones, the subtropical province of Argentina. There, he purchased traditional handwoven baskets, wood-carved animals and porongo (calabash) gourds for drinking yerba maté from the resident artisans of the Pindó Poty and Yeyi indigenous peoples. Back in Buenos Aires, he displayed his finds in Facon, the airy, high-ceilinged craft shop he owns in the city’s Chacarita neighbourhood. 

Bustamante opened Facon in 2016, but the idea for a curated artisan store had been marinating for some time. “When I was living in New York and London, I started to value all of the amazing things I missed about my country,” he says. “I was able to appreciate Argentina from a different angle, and I wanted to show that to the world. Facon is a small fragment of Argentina. It’s like a travel log.” He has since travelled across 80,000km of the country sourcing contemporary and traditional crafts. “What’s in the north? In the south? On the coast?” he asks. “I can tell the story of our country through an artisanal object, a photograph, a piece of art.” 

The store also works with non-profit organisations such as Rewilding Argentina, which promotes the wellbeing of native communities, and Emprendedores por Naturaleza, a cooperative of more than 60 families from El Impenetrable National Park in the Chaco province. They produce items such as hand-carved palo santo wooden pestles and mortars ($25) and wool tapestries (starting from $40), handwoven on a loom by the women of the Qomle’ec community and dyed using leaves, fruits and vegetables. “It’s a win-win scenario,” Bustamante says. “I have an incredible product from a place that’s nearly impossible to access. We promote it, and tell our clients about its origins and who makes it.”

A wood-carved animal, $50

Wood and ceramic spoons and classic pots, from $15

Facon is one of Bustamante’s nicknames, but it also refers to the Argentinian cowboy’s most prized possession, his facón, a fighting and utility knife known for its embossed metal hilt, sheath and large heavy blade. Accordingly, Facon stocks handmade knives, the wooden handles carved to resemble wolves and eagles. Meanwhile Máscaras de Chané – hand-carved wooden puma, fox condor, owl and capybara masks – line the store’s walls. Sourced in Salta, a province in northern Argentina, the masks (starting at $25) pay homage to the many animals that died when roads were built to inhabit the region. The Chané people began carving them out of palo borracho wood (silk floss tree) and decorating them with natural pigments, in order to keep the animals’ spirits alive. 

Wood-carved animals and traditional woven baskets made in Misiones Province

A Guarani chief showing his work in Misiones

Other bestselling pieces include handmade rugs, which can be custom-designed, from provinces like Salta, Catamarca, and Santiago del Estero (starting at $200, up to $1,000); porcelain plates hand-painted with indigenous Argentinian animals such as jaguars, and Hornero birds ($45); and intricately hand-carved carob wooden spoons ($10). Bustamante recently began a new project, Che Poncho, which was inspired by Andean mountain culture. These unisex ponchos (starting at $100) can be tailor-made from sheep, llama or alpaca wool. 

Handmade knives designed by Facon, $30

A sculpture of the Inca goddess Pachamama, $80

“Facon is a lot more than a rug, wooden mask or ceramic mug,” concludes Bustamante. “Behind each piece is a story. There’s a craftsperson, there’s a climate, there’s a mountain, there’s a landscape, and it’s a story I love telling.” 

Jorge Newbery 3584, CP 1427, CABA, Buenos Aires, Argentina, facon.com.ar/en, @faconargentina

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