In previous posts I have noted that Casa Mexicana is my favorite Mexican folk art store in Dallas. I desire to own almost everything they sell. In my dreams, I have a much larger house completely filled with artwork from their shop.
A few years ago, one of the coolest pieces that I had my eye on actually came home with me thanks to my fabulous husband Mike. I loved the shape and colors of this trunk and it caught my eye every time I visited Casa Mexicana. It was months before I got really close and examined the trunk, I didn’t want to raise the lust levels. When I finally gave in and peered closely, I couldn’t believe what I saw, cats! Imagine that. Me liking something that had cats involved and I didn’t even realize that at first.
Well, you can guess what that did to my lust levels. Like an oil strike, gushing ensued. My wonderful husband, my knight in shining armour, purchased the trunk as my Christmas gift. Have I ever mentioned that I love him?
After bringing the trunk home, I began the Internet research. The shop owners explained a little about the village, Olinala, where the trunk was created and the process involved. When you open the trunk, the wood it is made from, linaloe, has a very pleasant scent. I found interesting process info here and here. The creation of these wonderful lacquer pieces takes many tedious steps and a great deal of artistry. What I’ve read indicates that entire families are involved in the production of lacquer goods.
I wondered how my trunk came to look so Chinese when it came from deep in Mexico. One of the sources from which to purchase Mexican lacquer, a shop called Lacquer of Olinala, offers this: “The local arts and crafts of Olinalá of the XVII and XVIII centuries, is certainly characterized and derived from a Chinese influence in the decoration of the porcelain brought by the Nao of the Phillipines to the western coast of Mexico. The motifs were made in Chinese red or bright vermilion with an overlapping of layers and decorations. Figures like the tree of the life were used with two facing birds, fantastic foliages with birds overhead, flowers and stylized fruits, all with an unmistakable Asian flavor that transformed gradually adapting to the traditional Indian style.
In my web searching for more info, I stumbled upon an on-line photo album of the village of Olinala and of their annual lacquer festival. There are quite a few photos and lots of captions, well worth the visit: photo album.
Finally, if you really want to go see the lacquer being created, the NYTimes had a travel story today all about visiting Olinala. The article also contains lots of interesting information about Mexican lacquer ware creation and history.
As always, click on the photos above to see an enlargement.