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. 

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