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Mexican lacquerware is the name given to the gourds and wooden objects that have been coated for decoration purposes.
The lacquering process begins smearing the object with vegetable or insect oil. Next, it is covered with several coats of powdered soils rich in dolostone which are let to dry and polished before being decorated.
This technique was called laca (lacquer) or maque by the Spaniards because of its similarity with the Chinese lacquerware.History
These fragments, together with mentions of lacquerware objects found in Spanish chronicles have helped to establish that lacquer in Mexico comes from pre-Hispanic times. Lacquer was a widely used technique by Mayans, Aztecs and Purepechas, and the objects commonly lacquered were gourds called xicaras.
Like most crafts, Mexican lacquerware was enriched after the Spanish conquest: wooden objects like chests, trays and other furniture were soon lacquered with the native techniques.
During colonial times, Mexico was part of the Philippines-Spain commercial route hence oriental goods were widely spread around the colony, and this made an impact in the artisans' designs, which were highly influenced by the Chinese art.
Different decoration techniques, like the gold outlined and the painting were introduced by the Spaniards, while the carving or rayado and the lacquer inlaid known as embutido have pre-Hispanic origins.Mexican Lacquerware Nowadays
Francisco Coronel is among the best known artists from Olinala and is considered a rescuer of old techniques as he brought back the use of gold and silver in the town's lacquered pieces. On the other hand Bernardo Rosendo has mastered the carving technique to go beyond the handicrafts and became a portrait painter.
Olinala and Temalacatzingo are not far apart and their artisans use chia oil and local soils to prepare the lacquer mixture but in Temalacatzingo they only use the painting technique and no wooden objects are lacquered.
In Uruapan the lacquered objects are decorated with the inlaid technique in which a design is first laid down. Next, parts of the pattern are cut out and the hollows filled in with another color. The most common decorations are flowers and animals. In Patzcuaro the painting technique is enhanced with gold outlined.
Martin Andrade Rodriguez pioneered the rescue of this technique and promoted Mexican lacquerware around the world. He won the national folk art award in 1988 for his dedication and talent.
Wooden objects like boxes and crosses or natural gourds are lacquered and later decorated with oil paintings applied with the artisan's little finger. The motives are different color flower garlands.
Usually the artisans are women and while in the past most of the town used to make maque nowadays they make it only at the Barrio San Jacinto. Chiapa de Corzo houses the only lacquerware museum in Mexico.
Contents Patzcuaro gold outlined