Wednesday, April 25, 2012

San Cristobal: Some Artists

Forge Fire
My friend Brigitte, from Ajijic, who also has a home here, called me a few days ago. She showed up with three other women who are all interested in crafts and artists. I had taken many photos for Brigitte last April when I was here, and had of course, wanted to do more, but time ran out then for both of us.

One of her friends, Marianne Carlson, is the founder and head "honcha" of the annual Feria Maestros del Arte in Lake Chapala, an artistic exhibition that has grown to huge proportions. Their website: Feria has a lot more information. The purpose of their trip to San Cristobal (with a stop over in Puebla and Oaxaca) is to meet more local artists and find ones they want to invite. The show is unique in that artists can't apply, they must be invited, they are hosted by local families, their travel expenses are often subsidized, and being in the fair costs nothing for them. The whole idea is to provide access to a discerning public so that they might be able to make a living at their craft rather than give it up, and lose it. Brigitte has a great interest in art and knows so many of the indigenous people in San Cristobal and the surrounding countryside. She was the perfect person to show them around. So I got to tag along and take pictures!!
Guadalupe at the forge in his workshop

We went to visit Guadalupe. I met him last summer when he was in the Santa Fe Folk Arts Festival. It was truly the trip of his life. He got to meet other craftsmen from all over the world and go out drinking with them, see the United States, albiet a portion of it that bears a great resemblance to equally desert-y areas of Mexico, and his traditional crosses sold fairly well at the show. I was impressed with the variety of other items he's made; locks in the shape of animals and plants, chastity belts (I'm not kidding!), lamps, candle holders, furniture, and of course the ornate crosses.

Our little entourage also visited several women's weaving and sewing co-operatives. There are at least four shops in town where the co-ops sell their woven goods, all are beautiful and the pieces are such time-consuming works of art.

Sculpted book covers 
On a different day, we visited Los Leñateros. A leñatero is a woodcutter, but in this case, they use wood pulp and other fibers to make paper, print hand made books, sculptures and other works of art. It was a fine day and many sheets of paper were drying in the back patio in the bright sunshine. Our guide said they used to employ many more people, but sales have dropped off and they are down to only 14. In the shop, we saw some of the custom work they do for others, including an incredible sculpted book for the Japanese market, featuring the Mayan story about the birth of the sun-god.

On our tour we watched some women make paper from wood pulp, saw the bicycle driven machine used to grind up cardboard and banana leaf fibers. Another woman was making book covers from pulp and black fibers into which she embedded shiny bits from broken CDs. In a little room, the guide showed us paper, stacked floor to ceiling on shelves, of every color and size you can imagine. Most of the paper was colored naturally from plants; purple from pansies, yellow from sun flowers, reddish from dirt and clay, browns from banana leaves, and red from cochineal bugs (or the modern chemical  dye equivalent).

Capturing the wet paper fibers on a screen

Lifting the frame off the wet paper. The big
sponge was used to soak up the excess water.

Book cover with CD pieces

Every color under the rainbow

In Mexico, even a sidewalk
can be an opportunity
to make art.
Old traditional ironwork: chastity belts

Fast hammer