Handicrafts are one of the basic elements of the local economy, and also the symbol most closely associated with the city, which is considered the “Capital of Popular Art and Crafts of Peru”. Although the skills of artisans are varied (including silverwork, textiles, tinwork and chandlery, amongst others), two are particularly noteworthy and very popular:
- Ayacucho free-standing altars (retablos). Inspired by the free standing altars of San Marcos and San Antonio, of Spanish influence, they have become pieces, either large or small, that represent scenes of Andean life. On the outside, their aspect is that of a box with two doors decorated with colorful flower motifs. Inside, the rich representations are placed on two levels: Hanan Pacha or the world of heaven on top, and Kay Pacha or the terrestrial world below, which is usually filled with daily scenes of local inhabitants (harvesting, Carnivals, etc.). At present, depending on the size of the box, the interior scenes can include up to six levels. Some artisans, such as the master Silvestre Ataucusi, are considered great innovators in the production of these traditional boxes.
- Huamanga Stone. This is the name given to alabaster, a white colored mineral (sometimes with hues ranging from grey to sepia) that is very malleable. Sculptors working with alabaster started acquiring renown during the colonial period, when most of their production focused on religious themes.