Hidden down a dirt road on the outskirts of San Rafael is a small glass workshop where the Álava family manages a warehouse full of pitchers, bowls, jars and glasses blown from recycled wine bottles and other colorful glass scraps. Their company is called AYAG and is named for the first initial of each of the daughters: Aimée, Ysabel, Alva, and Guamán. Until recently, the family sold their work in Sangolquí but rising prices of rent and of gas to heat the furnaces forced the family to give up the store front. On my last visit, they were busy working on a bulk order from a local hotel/restaurant. It sounds as if they only run the furnaces when they have an order large enough to justify the cost of doing business. However, the warehouse can be visited any day of the week.
The glass products they make are reminiscent of what many Americans call Mexican-style glass – those rustic margarita glasses in blue and white with enough flaws in color and bubbles of air to make them look truly handcrafted. At AYAG, you can find examples in blues and greens and browns. Some of the work is mixed in color and some are just solid. My favorite is a dark blue that reminds me of old pharmacy bottles. If you search online today, you’ll find dozens of examples in the US at prices ranging from $10 a glass and up. At this little factory, a single glass will cost you $8 a piece; not a bargain but not expensive either. The better bargain, in my book, are the pitchers, ranging in size from a small single serving (about $10) to a huge one large enough for an entire party of sangria drinkers (about $25). When bought in combination, say a large pitcher with eight glasses, the prices can’t be beat. According to a video taken a couple of years ago, this workshop is a one of a kind here in Ecuador so they have an edge in the market even without a store front. It’s definitely worth the trip into the countryside to make a few purchases.
To find this little treasure trove, start at the traffic circle on the edge of Sangolqui called El Colobrí. Exit the traffic circle on the PanAm Hwy heading towards Cotopaxi National Park (General Rumiñahui). After a few kilometers, you’ll see a large gas station called Primax on the left. Take the left turn immediately after the Primax (there is a traffic light). This street is called De Los Capulies. Up to this point, Google Map can provide directions. Drive up the road until you see some buildings on the left (Direction picture #1). Take a right turn here onto José Espinosa (this road does not show up in a Google Map search). Take your third left, just past the buildings with the bright graffiti (Direction picture #2). Drive up the road to Lote 4 (Direction picture #3). It will have a metal gate that you can see through. There will be several buildings but the one immediately in front has a rosary hanging on the wall.
Before arriving, it is best to call either Johan at 0989770336 or Aimee at 0984298458. Johan can manage English but prefers Spanish if possible. Especially over the phone! Or you can try contacting them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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