Monday, July 30, 2018

Feria 2018 Insights and Stories: Huichol Yarn Painting

Cilau Valadéz with yarn painting
The Huichol people (known as Wixarika in their own language) have long communicated their myths, stories and beliefs through symbols and artwork. Nierikas (pronounced Near-eeka) are yarn paintings made by placing colored yarns into a natural glue made from tree resin and beeswax. A foundational belief of the Huichol is that people are connected to nature and all living things, and that it is their duty to take care of the earth because they depend on it for survival.

Beyond decorative, these hand crafted pieces of artwork express deep spiritual beliefs and are part of rituals the Huichol participate in on a regular basis, whether it’s asking the gods to bring rain for the crops or for the balance needed for life to prosper. Young people learn to create these pieces at a young age and they are then left in sacred places such as temples, springs or caves.

Although yarn paintings are an ancient art form to the Huichol people, these paintings are a relative newcomer to the world of Mexican Folk Art. Susan Page from Galería Antotonilco states, "Modern Huichol yarn paintings have an interesting history and are one of the great success stories of indigenous art. It is only since the 1950s that what began as little-known tribal votive offerings evolved into an international art, sold all around the world. Yarn paintings have been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout Europe, Japan, and the United States.”

Mariano Valadéz
It was the governor of the State of Jalisco who first organized an exhibition of Huichol yarn paintings in the late 1950s and they have grown in popularity since then because of their bright colors, symbolism and artistry.  

Cilau Valadéz, the son of renowned Huichol artist Mariano Valadéz and anthropologist Susana Eger Valadéz will be presenting a lecture on Huichol yarn painting at Feria 2018. Read here for more about Cilau, his father and their work.


Sunday, July 22, 2018

The Feria and Operation Feed

by Rachel McMillan

The Feria Maestros del Arte is much more than the largest traditional art fair in Mexico. In. addition to providing an opportunity for traditional Mexican artists to sell their work, it gives Lakeside residents the chance to learn about the culture of their host country and to “pay it forward” by volunteering and sharing their home with these amazing and talented folk. 

But there’s still more. 
The Feria also provides support 
to some of the neediest people in our Lakeside community.

Each year the Feria partners with Operation Feed, a local charity that supports over one hundred families in one of the poorest communities in the area, to run the Feria Raffle. Prizes for this fund-raiser are donated by the Feria artists, and the profits are split between Operation Feed and the Feria itself enabling both to continue with their great work.
 Some of the "egg ladies" who fund and
package eggs for needy families
Operation Feed is a charity that exemplifies everything a volunteer organization should be. In operation since 1989 when a Mexican family living in the village of San Juan Cosala started to feed six very poor families, it has since grown into an organization that not only provides nourishing food packages (despensas) to 108 families (567 people) on a weekly basis, but also gives free English classes to both adults and children in the village, has a twice-a-year clothing “dispensa” for those in need, gives cooking lessons (healthy recipes using the despensa items), provides scholarships to pay school fees, and holds an annual Christmas party complete with gifts for both children and adults.

Part of their success can be attributed to a man named Augustin Vazquez Calvario, who owns and operates a popular restaurant, Viva Mexico, in the community. Pictured above with the Paul Harris Award from the Rotary. This award is an international recognition of a person who has made an important contribution to the community.

Click here to watch more of the story
"We are helping people and making people happy."
 -- Augustin Vazquez Calvario

The Lake Chapala area is amazingly beautiful. However, one of the most beautiful parts of the area is the generosity of the people here, locals, Canadians, folks from the US and other parts of the world. 

 When a waterspout swept over San Juan Cosala in 2007 and caused a massive landslide, Augustin opened his heart and his restaurant and fed hundreds of people for weeks. Now he continues to help “his family” (as he calls the people in his village) by handling the time-consuming work of ordering and storing the food and, with the help of volunteers, distributes it to those in need, including deliveries to those too ill or infirm to make the trip to collect it. He also offers his restaurant for the annual Christmas party, one of the most delightful and rewarding celebrations at Lakeside.

Other volunteers, including Arnie and Rosie Mogseth, Carol Curtis, and Bernie and Penny St. Louis who offered the use of the building they own next door to the restaurant, have seen the good work being done and have joined in to lead one of the most successful programs in Lakeside. 

 How you can help!

You, too, can help out. All you need to do is buy a raffle ticket (or 5 or 10). Who knows? As well as helping the artists and earning the gratitude of so many deserving people, you might just be the lucky winner of a beautiful piece of art!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Straw Weavings come to Feria 2018

Feria Maestros del Arte is proud to host Antonio Cornelio Rendón lives in Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán, has been working with straw alongside his father since he was nine years old. Even before that time, he remembers being fascinated watching his grandfather make a tool to throw a rock. It entailed the weaving of thin rope and here is where Antonio began his interest in weaving.
Antonio is married with three daughters. He makes his incredibly intricate designs with a type of straw known as popotillo. It is very thin, but he has mastered the art of working with it in creating completely original designs as well as more common religious objects and Christmas ornaments. He makes earrings and other small objects as well, but is best known for his medium and large-sized estrellas (stars) that are displayed on the wall.
This shy maestro says that these one-of-a-kind designs stem from what he learned from his grandfather. He has won awards in concursos (judged shows): a 3rd Place National Award with FONART (the piece was later exhibited in Morelia at CASART.) He has also won a 1st Place National Award with FONART for a nativity scene created from straw.
Before attending the Feria, Antonio had never been to an art show. He has come a long way since then, with his work being recognized worldwide. In 2017, Antonio went to Madrid, Spain to show his work. Although he did not receive 1st place, Antonio and his family were recognized by the Loewe Foundation. There were 3,900 applicants and 26 finalists. There was 1 winner and 2 honorable mentions, of which Antonio was one.
Math plays a large role in the creation of Antonio’s complex large estrellas. Watching the dexterity of his hands and fingers is fascinating. This is truly one of Mexico's most unique handcrafts.
Outside of his art, he is very proud to have completed a degree at a technical high school and will be working with ecological projects including vegetable and fruit gardening for small spaces.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Marianne Carlson, Founder of Feria Maestros del Arte

His voice trembled as he spoke,  “Están tomando todo mi trabajo . . . todo" ... They’re taking all my stuff … all of it!
Emiio Molinero Hurtado, photo from Quadratin
Emilio Molinero was on the phone, obviously worried about his artwork. He had agreed to be one of the artisans at the first Feria and a volunteer had offered to transport all of his art work to make it easier for him when he took the bus to Chapala from Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán
Photo from Pinterest

Marianne Carlson, founder of the Feria Maestros del Arte had explained the process of how they were going to set up his booth for him, however, as she says, “My Spanish was pretty sketchy back then and I think he panicked when the volunteer started carrying all his work out to the car. When he finally got to the Feria and saw all his work neatly displayed, he just had the biggest grin. Of course, it got even bigger when all of his work sold almost immediately."
Mask by Juan Orta Castillo

Thinking back over the 17-year history of the Feria, Marianne remember that Emilio Molinero Hurtado, a Great Master of Mexican Folk Art, and renown mask-maker Juan Orta Castillo were two of the artists who agreed to participate. Back then, the norm was that gallery owners and individual collectors would scour villages, carrying back treasures to their homes or galleries. There definitely wasn’t a place where artisans could come together with buyers from all over the world. 

After years of traveling the world and exploring Mexico, Marianne knew Mexico was where she wanted to live and she didn’t want to wait for her Social Security years. She had had a varied background of jobs and skills … from running an Arabian horse ranch (her favorite employment gig), to managing wine tasting rooms, to working for the nuclear power plant on the central coast of California. In addition to strong organization abilities, she had computer and graphic arts skills and knew she could make it in Mexico doing something. 

One of Marianne's gourd kitchens
Her something turned out to be creating gourd miniatures and running a small gallery (called Avant Gourd) across the street from the Lake Chapala Society. On her trips around Mexico, she began to discover artisans in small villages making things that she had never seen before. She fell in love with the artisans and their work. 

The idea for Feria evolved during a trip Marianne took with a friend to 17 artisan villages between Ajijic, Jalisco and Pátzcuaro, Michoacán in March, 2002. She realized she was meeting artists whose work the average person would never have a chance to see. When questioned about where they sold their work, most of the artists said in their homes or at yearly ferias (fairs) or tianguis (outdoor markets) in local towns.

Wheels turned and she started thinking:  
Why not have a feria in Ajijic? 

Marianne's feathered animal gourd
The first year, 13 artisans from Jalisco and Michoacán brought their work to a conference room at Hotel Real de Chapala in Ajijic. Attendees were delighted and the artisans were selling their work. “I knew when Emilo Molinero, a recognized great master featured in the book "Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art," agreed to bring his work to the Feria, that this was going to be something special, not only for the people who would see his work, but for the artisans. The event moved around for a few years until we finally found a niche at the Chapala Yacht Club where it quickly became a beloved community event.” 

This year’s Feria will feature 85 artisans from Jalisco, Michoacán, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Campeche, Chihuahua, Mexico, Puebla, Guerrero, Guanajuato, and Zacatecas with hundreds of volunteers and an expected 4,000 attendees from Mexico and abroad. It is an amazing sight when buses start arriving from Chiapas, Oaxaca and Michoacán, unloading artisans and piles and piles of colorful carvings, textiles, rugs, clay pots, alebrijes, baskets, clothing, dolls, and other iconic art work ready to be organized and displayed under white tents against the green grass and shimmering lake.

Feria artisan
Along with the idea of creating a marketplace for folk art artisans, folk art lovers and collectors, another vision creeped into the mix. Indigenous folk art is a fragile commodity. Handmade, generally from local materials and with techniques and craftsmanship that has been handed down for generations, folk art doesn’t mesh with modern technology and mass production objectives. 

Soon Marianne recognized that some of the artisans were growing older and young people were leaving the villages to get jobs to support their families. There was a real possibility that much of Mexico's folk art would disappear over time. Even though she thought the Feria might help support her until her Social Security kicked in, after the first year of the Feria, working with and getting to know the artisans overshadowed any ideas she might have had about making money from the event. The Feria was about saving Mexican folk art and helping the artisans.

Marianne Carlson says: "the Feria isn’t an art show … it’s a heart show.”
Feria artisan

 Organized by an army of volunteers, artists do not pay any fees or percentage of sales. They are hosted by local families and transportation to the Feria is paid by the Feria. Their participation in the Feria is a unique community event. Every year, extraordinary cross-cultural bonds are forged between families of diverse backgrounds. For many artists, it is their first contact with the outside art world … and every cent of what they earned goes home with them. 

Artisans delivering a piece to a delighted customer
For some artisans, the Feria is a major part of their annual income. Marianne has seen artisans build houses, send their children to school, and pay for needed health care because of the money the earned at the Feria. One of the best indicators is that now the younger generation is often staying in their villages, learning the ancient traditions. She says, "Without the kind of intervention Feria Maestros del Arte provides, the world's most creative culture would lose its exceptional heritage.”

More than a Feria

The Lakeside communities are touched by a special spirit. Perhaps it’s the generous spirits of Neill James or Teomichicihualli (goddess of the lake) hovering over all of us, perhaps it’s the meeting of need and opportunity as hundreds of retired immigrants are eager to stay engaged in their later years and find needs that call to them. Whatever it is, so many people here are touched by this spirit of generosity and wind up spending their time and money helping … whether it’s rescuing stray dogs, bringing food and healthcare to families, teaching English … or art … or chess … or music … to children, or helping create a better future for thousands of folk artists across the country, this is a community with heart. When the Board of Directors of the Feria came together to determine their mission, it came down to four words: More than a Feria.

Feria Maestros del Arte is more than an annual event, it is deeply embedded part of  the community … with Operation Feed, the LCS Children’s Art Program, the Women’s Prison Doll program, the children’s chess program and others. The Feria also reaches out to help artisans with special needs such as some affected by the earthquake in Oaxaca and Guerrero

The Feria has been a non-profit organization since its fourth year and is soon to change to a donataria status, which will allow them to issue Facturas in Mexico that are tax deductible.

More information:
Emilio Molinero:  

Photo of Molinero and his wife from Flickr,

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Clay Puppets Come to Feria 2018

Feria Maestros del Arte 2018 is proud to host César Alfredo Lucano Siordia who began his current career working in clay by making clay puppets for his nephews. Leaving video games behind, he found an outlet for his creativity in clay and papier-mâché. César is mostly self-taught as his grandfather, a petatillo (cross-hatch design) artisan, passed away when he was very young. He worked diligently for a full year to learn bit by bit how to work with clay and began by making masks, his puppets, or whatever he could think of while researching techniques from all over Mexico.
He was saddened by how artisan techniques are being lost and this knowledge inspired him to keep working in clay. Working alone, César designs, creates, and paints his figures. His cycling papier-mâché Catrina won a sculpture contest in Tlaquepaque during the Guadalajara 2011 Pan American Games. Entitled "Maria the Cyclist"— the Catrina rides her blue racing bike in a yellow uniform with a helmet decorated in diamonds and wearing Huichol earrings. He also won First Place at the 6ª Concurso Nacional del Juguete (Toy) Popular Mexicano 2017.
Although he enjoys working with papier mache, he devotes almost all of his time to working and continuing his education in the art of clay, mainly making his puppets and alcancías (banks). He uses traditional methods with a touch of innovation, mixing techniques, such as a puppet made of clay painted with acrylics or oils. He also uses the polychromatic (several colors) technique with beeswax or lacquer and adds designs using horsehair, bone, etc., whatever the piece “tells” him it needs.