The highly skilled labor of artisans migrating from Mexico and Latin America are the backbone of high-end design and retail in Los Angeles, producing exquisite furniture, textiles, and design goods. But they represent a creative force that seems invisible to the city. Artbound uncovers their stories and their role in making Los Angeles and Southern California the creative capital of the world in a documentary "Artesanos/Artisans."
The “Made In LA” mural that sits upon the entrance to Cisco Home on Melrose is more than a tidings of excellence that signals quality furniture craftsmanship. While the hip and cool element in the words “Made In LA” appeal to both transplant and native, tourist and flaneur enough to pose in front of the piece for photo shoots and selfies, it is actually a quiet grito of intentionality and presence for Cisco Home founder Cisco Pinedo and his squad of preternaturally talented Mexican artisans. To walk into one of the trendiest furniture showrooms on Melrose Avenue and to take in the striking yet familiar Mexican patterned pillows laid atop lush neutral-toned sectionals amidst the panorama of repurposed sizable vintage signs above the devastatingly handsome reclaimed wooden bed frames, and to know a bevy of Mexican immigrants are responsible for such design perfection might make you wonder how you missed this exciting cultural collision that begins humbly in a couple of workshops down in South Los Angeles started by Pinedo, and ends in living rooms inside the homes of Silverlake, Los Feliz, Topanga Canyon and Beverly Hills.
“I feel like L.A. has become an extension of inspiration, it is not only an extension of my culture but a place where many cultures come together and [where there are] no boundaries in creativity,” Pinedo writes in an recent email. “Nature and the richness of my culture… [its] different layers [have] always been a huge influence for me.”
Pinedo experienced a rural childhood common to many Mexican immigrants and credits early life experiences with providing him inspiration. Born in a village in Jalisco, Mexico, in an area so rustic with very little exposure to an outside world steeped in rushing modernity, the concepts of electricity and public transportation were elusive to Pinedo until he was 13, when he and his family moved to Los Angeles. He asserts that growing up in a naturally intact environment ignited his exuberance for nature, which in turn triggered his desire to realize a vision anchored not only in what is aesthetically pleasing but also into the sustainability that has become a cornerstone of the Cisco Home brand.
The Pinedos arrived to Southern California from Jalisco over 40 years ago. He, along with 3.5 million other immigrants, call Los Angeles home. Pinedo began working as an upholsterer assistant in different factories when he was a teenager. It was Los Angeles where he navigated a new culture while learning a new language. Through grit and trial Cisco went on to secure a job with a local upholstery manufacturer. Embodying the immigrant ethos of dogged perseverance, it was in this commercial habitat where he dreamed the first seeds of an empire. Cisco learned how to run a business firsthand while in his early twenties taking on side work making custom furniture for neighbors out of his garage in his South Central home. As his small enterprise began to grow, he and his wife, Alba, recruited their family members to help run the thriving business.
“The biggest obstacle is to be afraid to take a step forward. If you have a dream and you are willing, work hard for it, all steps will lead you to it,” he says.
This was how and when Pinedo, with intrepid vision, set his sights on transforming his garage shop into a full-scale operation, based on the demand for his product -- an ambitious vision that would require a great deal of time, courage, support and money to fully realize. After cashing out his small 401(k), he launched Cisco Brothers in 1990.
Pinedo, who makes his home in San Marino and has begun to share his wisdom with his children who also now work in the family business, is committed to Los Angeles and the great state of California which has afforded him his opportunity to succeed. His behind-the-scenes workforce is comprised of Mexican immigrants with a penchant for bringing complicated design concepts to life. It is in this world of his making where South Los Angeles meets Beverly Hills, where members from different cultures, classes, and publics face one another in the name of high-end craftsmanship. He values the true cost of work and the corollary ways it is connected to creating good jobs and good livelihoods. And Pinedo has no intention of taking his work ethic and grand scale operation overseas, even though it would easily cut his production costs down.
“Don’t be afraid to do the hard work. Hard work will lead you to your craft. Your craft and handwork will lead you to success and happiness,” Pinedo says proudly.