Bòter i kanika di bleki

One of our participants brought this tin cup and water pitcher to a workshop. Between 1861 and the early 20th century kerosene was transported to Curaçao in four-gallon tin cans. After oil tankers were used, the tin cans still reached Curaçao in large numbers as cooking oil packaging for brands such as Tralala and Argo.

The cans had a second life on the island as exterior coating for wooden houses and as containers to store water. Also a whole new profession emerged: the blekero (tinsmith).

Until the late 20th century there were many tinsmiths and tin artists in Curaçao. Tinsmiths turned discarded tin cans into everything from lamps to measuring cups and cake molds. In order to do this they used a soldering iron, scissors, wooden tools and cardboard patterns.

Due to the vast supply of cheap imported merchandise made of plastic, aluminum and ceramics in the last decades, there is not much demand for tin products anymore. The last well-known blekero of Curaçao was Juan Boulio ‘Boy’ de Palm. In the 2010s he held workshops to teach his craft to young people.

“The last well-known blekero of Curaçao was Juan Boulio 'Boy' de Palm.”