The early history of Mexico, as recorded by both the Aztecs and the Mayans, was on amate paper. The Aztecs used amate (its náhuatl name) to make tributes to their traditional gods of corn, tomatoes, peanuts, chile, coffee, beans, bananas and mango. This native Mexican paper is beautiful and today serves as the canvas for brightly colored yet pricy paintings, is used in clothing, pre-hispanic ulama balls and ropes, and for sculptures.
I’ve experimented with printing photos on amate, as I figure if I’m taking photos of indigenous life, what more natural and appropriate way to present them than on handmade paper made in the prehispanic tradition? My artist colleagues love amate for painting and printmaking. If you do any sort of paper handicraft—card making, lamp shades, pulled paper drawing, journal creation—it works beautifully for that as well. And, perhaps the greatest thing is that making and using amate helps to preserve a centuries-old tradition, connecting us to this land and culture in our adopted home.
Monday and Tuesday, March 11-12 you will have the rare opportunity to learn with one of the very last remaining masters of amate-making in a workshop at the beautiful and historic Galería Baupres, between Casa Haas and Totem in Centro Histórico. The amate workshop will be conducted by Maestro Genaro Fuentes Trejo, an Otomí (hñahñu) elder who teaches paper-making classes at Bellas Artes/The Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City as well as at museums and universities around the country (Tampico, San Luis Potosí, Zacatecas, Saltillo, Querétaro). He comes to us from from San Pablito, Pahuatlán, in the state of Puebla. We are incredibly privileged to bring this talented, humble and personable artist to Mazatlán. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.
Making amate is an incredibly labor-intensive process. Fortunately, Maestro Genaro does the heavy lifting for us, leaving us to the fun and creative part. He hikes out into the woods to harvest the trees. He cuts them up, cooks the pieces, and makes them into pulp. During our class we’ll use that pulp—natural fibers of amate, tule, yuca, plátano, etc.—for our creations, and then sun-dry our final products the same way the Aztecs did.
During the workshop you will be able to make multiple pieces of gorgeous paper. Genaro will probably bring mora wood, which makes a gorgeous white paper, and palo colorado, which produces a beautiful dark colored paper. You’ll learn to lay out your fiber in a geometric pattern on wooden planks, and use a lava stone/basalt mano stone to crush the pulp, fusing it together. You can make plain color paper, or weave the differing colored fibers together to produce a design. Adding flower petals to your paper provides a splash of color, as does adding traditional colored paper cutouts. The maestro also will bring several molds of indigenous designs, and we can mold our paper using those. You’ll finish off your paper with the sweet smell of citrus, as we use orange peel to polish our finished product before drying it in the sun, the same way amate has been made for centuries.
We were delighted with our creations in the last class, and are eager to attempt some more complex pieces in this next one. If you wish, you can purchase large pieces of amate from the maestro, as well as purchase additional pulp and the basalt mano to take home to continue your paper making. Basalt, the lava rock, is said to have calming properties and connect us to Mother Earth.
The class requires a minimum of ten paid participants in order to pay for the Maestro’s transportation, so please register early and help us spread the word! Maestro Genaro is fluent in Otomi and Spanish, but does not speak English; Dianne will be present to interpret as needed. The class and the process are a whole lot of fun and it is a craft you can easily do that opens the door to so many creative projects. Thank you for helping us support traditional Mexican indigenous art!
Monday and Tuesday, 11-12 March, 2019
4 – 9 pm each day
Galería Baupres, Heriberto Frías 1506 (between Casa Haas and Totem)
tel. 669-113-0941, open Tuesday-Fridays from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm and 3:00 – 6:00 pm.
Cost: 1300 pesos, cash only please, pay in advance to reserve your spot and 100% refund if the class does not fill (but it’s looking good; if everyone who says they want to come pays, we could all be happy).
Bring 3 pieces of 10 mm thick plywood sized 60 cm x 40 cm, or let us know and we’ll get them for you at our cost.