Friday, February 28, 2014

Mexican Arts and Crafts

             I am sharing with you a humble basic profile of some Mexican arts and crafts as gathered from my recent trip to Cancun, Mexico. The trip was a great experience overall—one filled with sun soaked days relaxing by the beach enjoying the stunning blues of the Atlantic, brisk water activities, a glimpse of the magnificent Mayan history at Chichen Itza, walks and interactions with local artisans and craftsmen, shopping at the local flea markets and bazaars, discovering tribal arts and crafts and the stories behind the work, excellent food and service, and of course many conversations with friends. And in this blog I would like to share some of those arts and crafts related cultural experiences with you and relive the vacation….sigh!

             One distinct symbol of Mexican arts and crafts is Mexican Talavera Pottery. This colorful form of ceramic art was introduced by Spain and was commonly called ‘Majolica’. The traditional blue and white designs show this old world legacy while the brightly colored floral and animal motifs in ceramics are classically Mexican.

              The resort I stayed at had offered a cultural experience to paint some Mexican pottery. They offered an opportunity to paint unpainted pottery pieces with a basic pattern already outlined on it. It was kind of like painting within the lines, which was then fired and glazed and returned to you the next day.


From this vast collection, I chose a small jewelry box of sorts.

I had so much fun with the jewelry box that I decided to paint a small fish bowl. I could have gone on painting pieces everyday…..

           After you finish painting, the guide then highlights and outlines the pottery with traditional patterns and designs. I asked my guide ‘Sebastian’ if I could do the highlighting in black. He quickly replied “I do, I do!” And grabbed the box from my hands surely not trusting me with that step.

           I am so glad he did that. His experience and heritage of making Mexican pottery and those steady black outlines and patterns lent it a touch of his culture and covered a multitude of my mistakes and made the entire piece pop giving it depth and dimension. 

            I am sharing with you all a picture album which along with pictures of the colorful pottery also has pictures of the other Mexican craft that fascinated me—the Mayan Masks. These masks are completely hand carved and painted or stained. The artists shared that it takes them about 2-3 days to complete one regular mask. Some of the larger ones take about a week long. The wood is soaked in water for a few days to soften it and then the labor intensive carving process begins. These hand carved masks portraying religious symbols and animals represent Mexican culture of the indigenous people. The local artists explained that there is no specific pattern or design to follow…the characteristics and shape of the wood suggest the direction of the final mask. The mask is then stained or colored using vegetable dyes. Skills are passed from generation to generation and the complexity and quality of the mask determines the price.

Hope you all enjoyed reading and browsing through my simple experiences of Mexican arts and crafts. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Comic Top Desk

I have been busy with my latest furniture project and I am soo excited to share this with you all. After dragging my feet on this piece for the longest time, I finally decided to just get to it.
I wanted a custom size desk in my son’s room and so I came up with this piece from scratch. Of course I didn’t build the cabinets! …but it’s as ‘from scratch’ as I could do at this point. J

The end result:

What I started with:

·       Unfinished stock kitchen base cabinets from Home Depot
·       High density MDF board

What I used:

·       Batman Comic Book
·       Mod podge in hard coat finish
·        ‘Gray Area’ color interior paint in satin finish
·       Knobs and drawer pulls

What I did:

·       Painted the cabinets
·       Cut hundreds of (felt like it at least) comic strips and images
·       Dry- laid out comic strips to satisfaction
·       Mod podged (don’t think that’s a word…but all crafters agree it should be) the strips one by one, layering the strips and images as appealing
·       Hard coated several layers for a hard smooth finish
·       Glued the top to the base cabinets
·       Attached the knobs and pulls

Important stuff to note:
This stock kitchen cabinet come in a standard size of 24x34.5x24. Though the width and depth are ideal for a desk, the height of 34.5" would make this too high for a desk. So I sawed off 4” off the base of the cabinet.  I also got the heavy high density board used for the top cut to the required size at Home depot itself.

Picture snapshot:

And with this comes the realization that the possibilities for applying this idea and technique are endless….