Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Grande Maestra

 In 2011 Mexico By Hand presented the exhibit, "En las Manos de las Mujeres", featuring the artesania of master craftswomen from Michoacán, Mexico. We were thrilled to be able to bring two of the women to the Bay Area, one of whom is maque artist, Martina Navarro Gonzalez, pictured here on the right. She has been a good friend since exhibiting with us at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in 2005, and Martina's unique story, some of which she tells in our video (see link below), always fascinates those who have the opportunity to meet her. And of course there is the beautiful traditional art she creates. Maque is an ancient Purépecha lacquer art made entirely with natural materials: wood plates or gourds rubbed and encrusted with pigments made from plants and animals. There are very few artists remaining who do this work; we've been told there are twelve, but that was ten years ago.
We were so excited to hear the fantastic news that Martina has won the most honored prize for folk art
to be bestowed on an artist in Mexico--she has been declared one of Mexico's "Living Legends"! Here's the article published (in Spanish of course) in El Universal.

On the right is one of my favorite pics of Martina and Herlinda Morales visit to the Bay Area, learning how to use chopsticks at a Berkeley Chinese restaurant.

Below, Martina Navarro of Uruapan sells her maque pieces at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, where she represented artisans of Michoacán with Mexico By Hand.

Maque pieces by Martina Navarro are available for purchase in the United States at www.mexicobyhand.com.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


As we in the United States get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving, I am full of gratitude for both the talented Mexican artisans and our appreciative customers we have met through this small business known as Mexico By Hand. Below are a few of the hardworking artists who put their hearts and souls into the pieces they produce, the precious pieces we pack and ship to this country for you to buy and bring home-- so that you may add more pleasure to your lives. I give thanks to you, our dedicated fans and supporters who come to every sale, who express your appreciation for the art and encourage our efforts to continue bringing it to the U.S. We wouldn't be here without you.
We send you love and appreciation, and our wishes for many blessings for you and yours during the holidays.
Peggy Stein,
Mexico By Hand

Martina Navarro, maque

Zenaida Rafael Julian, clay sculpture

Herlinda Morales, clay candelabras

Martin Espicio, clay pots

Fernando Arroyo, lead free pottery

Felipe Horta, maskmaker

Jose Guadalupe Hernandez Cano, burnished pottery

Robert Castro Hernandez, hammered copper

Teofila Servin, embroidery

Ana Luisa Cano, weaving
To see and purchase folk art and crafts by these and other artisans of Michoacán, please go to our website at www.mexicobyhand.com.  We thank you for your support!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

When traditional is progressive

Artisan making pine needle baskets
If you're a left-leaning social progressive, there are some cultural traditions that you would probably like to get rid of: patriarchy, child abuse, and big game hunting to name a few. On the other hand, there are some traditional cultural expressions that many of us recognize need preserving-- and indigenous folk art and handmade crafts fit into that category. When traditional art is also sustainable or "eco-friendly", when artisans utilize natural resources and production techniques that benefit the environment and the health of the local community, then that it is also progressive and something we should all support. And if purchasing a beautiful handmade piece of art to enrich our own lives is how we show our support for struggling artisans in Mexico, then that's a good thing to do because we all benefit.
Indigenous coastal artisans burnishing their pottery

Copper artisan from Santa Clara del Cobre

Since 2004, Mexico By Hand has been buying extraordinary handmade traditional crafts and folk art directly from award-winning artisans in Michoacán, Mexico. We feature beautiful handwoven baskets made from pine needles, paper mache figures made from newspaper, and gorgeous hammered copper vases created from 100% recycled copper scrap. We also seek out artisans who have converted to using lead-free glazes and create beautiful food safe pottery, like these below:

If you appreciate the crafts you see here, please check out our website: www.mexicobyhand.com 
and like our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mexicobyhand.
Wholesale customers are welcome! Contact us at: info@mexicobyhand.com or call 510.526.6395

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Purepecha Indian Crafts-- A Mexican Treasure

The state of Michoacán is home to four indigenous groups-- the Purepecha being the largest of those, and the culture that is responsible for most of the exquisite crafts and folk art from the region. The Purepecha, sometimes spelled Purhépecha, and also called Tarascan (but that's a long story) developed the most advanced pre-Columbian society in western Mexico. They resisted Aztec domination for decades, only to be brutally defeated by the Spanish in the early 16th century. Today the Purepecha number a little over 120,000.
The Purhépecha language has been called a hybrid Mesoamerican language. Some researchers have suggested that it is distantly related to Quechua, one of the man languages in the Andean zone of South America. For this reason, it has been suggested that the Purhépecha may have arrived in Mexico from Peru and may be distantly related to the Incas. The language also has some similarities to that spoken by the Zuni Indians of New Mexico. 

The ancient Purepecha inhabitants were farmers and fishermen, but later became skilled weavers and became known for their feathered mosaics made from hummingbird plumage. With time, these gifted people also became skilled craftsmen in metalworking, pottery, and wood and stone carving. Below are a just a few of the pottery styles created by traditional Purepecha communities:
Burnished pots from Huancito
Marta Espicio of Huancito

Zenaida Rafael Julian, award-winning artist of Ocumicho

Glazed candelabras by Herlinda Morales of Santa Fe de la Laguna

Maque, a lacquerware made only in Michoacán, is a Pre-Columbian technique using pigments made from plants and insects.
Martina Navarro, master maque artisan

Hammered copper art has been made in the village of Santa Clara del Cobre going back about 500 years in small workshops like the one below.

Workshop of Roberto Castro Hernandez
Purepecha women in dozens of villages around the state make beautiful rebozos and embroidered blouses like those pictured here.
Cecilia Bautista, master weaver of Ahuiran

To see more art by extraordinary Purepecha artisans, please go to www.mexicobyhand.com where many items are available for purchase. Our mission is to promote the work of talented artisans of Michoacán. By bringing their beautiful handmade goods to a wider market, artists are able to support their families and communities and ensure that their traditions survive.

For more information about Michoacán history and the Purepecha people I recommend the following website by historian,  John Schmal: http://www.houstonculture.org/mexico/michoacan.html