When Beauty Is Divine: Mexico's 10 Most Sophisticated Handicrafts
Meet the top 10 "divine" handicrafts of Mexico. Tapestries, embroidery, and pottery are cultural expressions that show us the universe of the artisan who makes them.
Among some Mexican indigenous groups -and also around the world-, there was no difference between art and handicraft. For them, their objects were not simple utensils but a way to make a connection with their gods.
Tapestries, embroidery, and pottery are cultural expressions that show us the universe of the artisan who makes them. Some still use 100 percent indigenous techniques while others have adapted to the processes of transculturation. Meet the 10 most sophisticated handicrafts in the country.
Mata Ortiz pots
The story of these pots is amazing: Juan Quezada, a potter from the town of Mata Ortiz, in Chihuahua, discovered some pots from the extinct Pachimé culture 50 years ago and copied them. His work reached an American anthropologist, who saw its value. They have been exhibited nationally and internationally and now the whole town is dedicated to pottery. Why are they valuable? They are made with mud endemic to Mata Ortiz. They are molded and painted by hand with dyes from the region using natural hair brushes.
In the 16th century, a group of European artisans arrived in Puebla. They fused their knowledge in the handling of clay with pre-Hispanic knowledge and created a fine earthenware known as Talavera, which is used to make mosaics and tableware. Why are they valuable? By applying cobalt and tin they achieve a texture that implies ostentation not only for the baroque style of the pieces but also for the varied use of minerals.
The Wixárikas are born artists. They get their inspiration from rituals and in their pieces, they tell the story of their origins. Through the objects, they have conversations with their gods. Why are they worth it? The visions are captured on canvases formed on boards prepared with wax and threads. Once the drawing is ready, they fill it with tiny glass beads called chaquiras. A Huichol art painting made by a family from Nayarit costs around 5,000 US dollars.
It is a pottery technique that has survived in Oaxaca since the time of Monte Alban. Originally, they were only black clay pots, but now the magic of alebrijes has merged with tradition. Why are they worth it? They get their color from the earth which takes about a month to be cleaned. Everything is done by hand and a piece can take up to 20 days to be finished.
No outfit cannot be improved with a good silk shawl. This has always been considered a garment of feminine elegance. Although it is made in several parts of the country, the ones manufactured in San Luis Potosí stand out. The reason why they are worth it? They go through a meticulous process from the beginning when the threads are boiled and then made into skeins. From there, they are dyed and placed on the loom to make the garment. The fringe of each shawl alone can take up to 30 days to finish.
Trees of life
They have been made for almost 100 years in Metepec, State of Mexico, and are practically three-dimensional paintings. The trees of life used to tell biblical passages about the origin of humanity, but now they tell different stories that can be "read" from the bottom up. Why are they valuable? The pieces are made of baked clay and each one is crimped into the shape of a tree. They measure between 26 and 60 centimeters, although some huge ones take up to a year to be finished. An intricate art that tells great stories.
Lacquerwork of Olinalá
This small town in Guerrero is internationally famous for its lacquer and sgraffito work. They make trays, bowls, and, above all, boxes in lináloe wood whose fragrance lasts for several years. Why are they worth it? They work with a very old scratching technique (sgraffito) that consists of applying a layer of chia oil, a mixture of two piles of earth and pigments, on the piece. Then the drawings are made with the tip of a dowel.
This technique arrived in Mexico in the early twentieth century and was tropicalized in Tonalá, Jalisco, where there are workshops that design fine glassware with a national touch. Why is it worth it? To make each piece is blown through a cane to form a bubble with the molten glass, then it is given the required shape.
Since the beginning of the 16th century, Taxco has been famous for its handmade silverware, although the metal has been known since the Olmecs. The local mineral is refined and transformed into various ornamental items and jewelry. Why is it worth it? There is a whole artistic movement of contemporary Mexican silverware. Traditional techniques such as embossing, chiseling, and others dominate.
Threads, blankets, and imagination are the raw material for the elaboration of tenangos, embroidered tablecloths made in a community of Hidalgo. Why are they worth it? Each design is unique, the artisan paints freehand on the fabric and then embroiders it.