A gem of El Casco
An interview with Mari Fe, one of the treasured team at El Casco
Here at El Casco, we are known for creating luxurious accessories for your home or office. Behind the brand, a team whose specialized skills and methodical attention to detail ensure that each and every piece is one that you can treasure and enjoy for many years. Part of our 100-year success rests with the stories of these people and their contributions.
In celebration of the International Women’s Day, we spoke with Mari Fe, one of our most beloved team members. Her experience expands over 40 years of continuous dedicated work. As she approaches retirement, we spoke about her experiences working at El Casco, must-have recommendations for those new (or not) to El Casco and her hopes for the future.
When did you start working for El Casco?
Well, I entered the warehouse when I was 15 years old to make staples. As time went by, I started cleaning apparatuses. Some years later, one of the managers requested a sabbatical, which is when I was made manager, a position that I maintain until now.
What are the changes that you have seen in the time that you have worked for El Casco?
In regards to people, very little has changed. It wasn’t until recently that I had ever seen the company hire so many workers. Before now, people were retiring and they weren’t being replaced. There was a time when there were so many people and we just kept the production going. A very impressive, massive amount of production, with many apparatuses. And not very much else has changed in that regard. Although… people used to be segregated, there was the section for staples that was managed solely by women. Also, in the assembly line they were mostly women. Men kept busy with the machine work. Although there was one or two women that did work the machines.
As for the evolution of the workshop, the change is that we have been incorporating new items, whereas before we only did staplers, hole punchers and date stamps. We did also do some paper weights, and then we started making luxury office accessories: clocks, lamps, eye glass holders and everything else that we produce nowadays. That is what is saving us, because the staplers we work with less, people use them less now. Nevertheless, staplers will always be needed because there is always going to be a bunch of papers that need to be stapled.
What is your favorite aspect about working in El Casco?
The warehouse. I love my job, since day one when I began working. I didn´t start working out of necessity. We were lucky enough that we could have continued studying, but since I was a bad student, my Ama (mother in Basque) told me “you must either study or work”, so I decided to work at 15 years of age. I am picturing myself with a mini skirt back on my first day (giggles between Charlene and Mari Fe) and God as my witness, even now my colleagues remind me of it. And well, I adore my job, dealing with people, as I am a very sociable person. I help my co-workers and I truly enjoy my job. Preparing the orders, cleaning, keeping busy, I really like it a lot… a lot.
What will you miss the most?
Well, my colleagues. In the end, today the company has become a family. I am not sure how I will deal with leaving, because we have spent more time at work than at home. We have shared and done so much; I am unsure how I will manage. Maybe I will have too much time on my hands! I will aim to hike, enjoy whatever I may, and be healthy and… (chokes up a bit).
There are people that comment on how there aren’t very many women working at factories and workshops…
Yes of course. We tend to hear how women who work at home deserve their own pension. What it took for us back then was to do both – work at home and then full time at the warehouse, we never stopped nor rested, and we were children. I now see 15-year-old children, and fortunately they aren’t working yet, they are studying, to educate themselves. We didn’t study at all; we had some basic education and that was all. Nowadays there is this blessing of choice.
And you see that as a positive change…
Of course! So that they have a base to build on for their future. Women, at the time that I entered the workforce just started with union organization. Women have been, more so in Basque Country, very much tough fighters. And that’s how we should be, on the front lines.
And we should keep being that way.
We must continue. It is for our best interest. To not let us be run over or stepped on by anybody, let alone by a man. If so, we would be self-sabotaging!.
And on your free time, what do you like doing?
Well, you see, in my free time – currently I live in a “Caserío” (Traditional Basque stone manor house-farmhouse). So, with all things considered with Covid-19, it is an absolute luxury that I have. I go hiking, work in my garden, a little bit, I don’t do too much on it, but a bit of work. I walk the dogs, enjoy and care for my flowers and not much else at the moment. And once the Covid-19 restrictions are over, I will enjoy again walking on the coast, which is what I like doing the most. I do like hiking in the mountains, but I like the coast even more.
I agree with you!
I also prefer the coast, [Laughter]. If anyone is looking for something of El Casco and is not sure what to choose? What would you recommend?
If they are looking for something practical, something to have on your desk for work and everyday use, then I would recommend the “85”. The M85 is the must have accessory for work and is aesthetically phenomenal as well. Then you have the 15 and 5, in chrome and gold. Gold is more aesthetic and chrome is better for work. For a gift in a special occasion, I would choose the pencil sharpener or the set of 15/ the 5 with a hole puncher. Although I must say that the pencil sharpener is the king of luxury gift accessories. Many others come to mind as well, the clock, the lamp of course. But for the iconic El Casco brand, I would say it is definitely the pencil sharpener.
What do you wish for El Casco after your retirement?
I wish the best in every aspect. I wish El Casco a long life of many years. In all aspects of business from the coating business to the staplers and accessories. El Casco has been in busines for such a long time, it is an icon, a flagship and spearhead of the region.