Masters of Art Fair
|A detail from near the center of the Otomi wall hanging we recently purchased.|
Last Saturday my folk art-loving wife and I attended the 14th annual indigenous art show held over the long Revolution Day weekend in the nearby town of Chapala. This fair gathers nearly 100 of the best artisans from all over Mexico who are masters of a variety of folk arts. Most are from remote areas where traditional styles and techniques have been passed down for ages within certain families. The fair offers them exposure in what is considered the most prestigious gathering of its kind, as well as a marketplace for their goods that allows them not only to continue their work, but to train and employ others in their hometowns.
|A close-up of the detail above, showing the individual threads.|
Before we left home we gave ourselves a budget and told ourselves that if we didn’t see anything we liked more than the etching we had recently bought from a local artist, Jesus Lopez Vega, we would put the money in a kitty to purchase a larger work from him. As it turned out, after touring all of the booths, we came back to the very first piece that impressed us. It was within our budget, and after consulting each other about where we could display it, we made the purchase.
The piece we bought was a six-foot long embroidered wall hanging made by a lady from the small village of San Pablito—in a hard-to-reach mountainous area of Puebla state, about 100
miles northeast of Mexico City. This is an area inhabited for centuries by the Otomi people, and the style of the piece we bought is particular to them. We were taken by the well-chosen variety of bright colors, the style and organization of the whimsical animal and plant figures on the unbleached muslin background, and the accomplished embroidery.
|At about six feet in length and 18 inches width, our Otomi wall hanging found its|
place in our dining area. We bought it for the equivalent of about $75 US
dollars, which is a good deal for all involved.
The first step in making this piece is to draw the design in water-soluble ink on the muslin—no stencils are used. Then the work is embroidered. The thread is not drawn through to the back, it is simply pricked part way through the cloth and returned, back and forth. Finally, the piece is carefully washed or soaked to remove the ink drawing.
Our Otomi art now hangs next to our dining table and brightens our casa. We enjoy looking at it and imagining the care it took to create in the small and isolated village from which it came.