Patzcuaro Gold Outlined Lacquerware

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Patzcuaro gold outlined lacquerware is the name given to the lacquered objects decorated with flowers, birds and butterflies outlined with 23.5 k gold. There are pieces in which drawings are outlined with gold and next filled with colored oil paintings and in others the drawings are only gold outlined.

Patzcuaro Gourd
Lacquerware in Michoacan state has been made since pre-Hispanic times but the gold outlined technique was brought by the Spaniards in the 17th century. By the 18th century Patzcuaro had become a lacquerware production center competing with oriental lacquereware in quality and beauty.

The designs used in the decoration of trays, plates, boxes and gourds as well as the color combinations have an oriental influence because during the Spanish colony Mexico was part of the commercial route between Philippines and Spain. Many Chinese crafts such as porcelain and lacquerware remained in the area and influenced the local craftsmen.

After the Independence war lacquerware production dwindled in Patzcuaro and the traditional lacquer techniques were almost lost.

Nowadays some artisans use industrial lacquers to varnish the pieces they gold outline or buy lacquered objects in their neighbor town Uruapan.

In the 1980's self thought artisan Martin Andrade Rodriguez (1954-2009) began a national effort to save the traditional lacquer techniques in Patzcuaro and Mexico. He gave many workshops to teach others what was so difficult for him to learn and traveled around the world showing his work and promoting Mexican Lacquerware. In 1988 he won the National Award to Folk Art given by FONART. He left 9 children that have followed his footsteps in gold outlined lacquerware.

Martin Andrade Rodriguez

Martin Andrade Rodriguez

Making Process
The wooden objects are made of birch or elm wood and the gourds come from the calabash. The object is sanded until its surface is smooth and then smeared with axe insect oil (this oil is made by boiling, grounding, filtering, and finally drying the insect to extract its fat).

Next, it is covered with several coats of powdered soils rich in dolostone. Before a new coat of soils is applied the piece is polished with a stone and let to dry. This process can take days or weeks depending on the size of the lacquered piece.

Once the piece is lacquered the decoration is drawn with a fine brush, some artisans
draw directly into the lacquered piece and others use thin tissue paper to copy the drawing on it.

If the piece will have colored paintings on it the next step is to decorate it with oil paintings applied with a fine brush. When the oil colors have dried a mordente or glue prepared with copper oxide, linseed oil and garlic is applied to the outlines of the drawing.

The mordente will fixate the gold to the lacquer and add shine to it. The 23.5 k gold leafs are then carefully applied over the mordente. The gold leftovers are removed from the piece with cotton swabs.

Like many others crafts in Michoacan, the Patzcuaro gold outlined lacquerware has a denomination of origin to protect the authenticity of the artisans work.

Martin Andrade Plate
Martin Andrade Plate

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