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Recycling in Chiapas with Taller Leñateros – What a Great Idea!

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Taller Leñateros is a artist workshop located in San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. Here they recycle lots and lots of paper! They take catalogues, magazines, pamphlets and many other sources of paper headed into landfills and turn them into something really beautiful. The new and improved paper is infused with other natural products, such as corn husks and cut flowers, which otherwise could have also added to our waste.

At Taller Leñateros, artists also create their own unique designs that are carved onto wood blocks. With ink, their designs are printed onto the new, recycled paper. The paper is also transformed into colorful books and notepads.

In speaking with one of the artists, he told me that they are trying to do their part to help the environment. He also told me of an even bigger recycling need; Chiapas consumes an incredible amount of soda. This leaves behind a huge amount of glass bottles. Anyone Who has a great idea for recycling glass, this would be the perfect place to start a project.

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Before picture

Natural materials added to paper

Natural materials added to paper

After

After

Recycled paper with wood block printing

Recycled paper with wood block printing

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Amatenango del Valle – Meeting the Artist Juana Gómez Ramírez

Town square, Amatenango del Valle

Town square, Amatenango del Valle

Amatenango del Valle is a village in the Chiapas highlands famous for its pottery. The people of Amatenango speak the Mayan language, Tzeltal. The men are mostly farmers. The women began selling pottery to contribute to the family income. The art of making pottery has been passed down from their ancestors. In years past, the pottery was used to carry water or for use in the home. Now, the pottery is sold to visitors and ranges from pots to animal figures. Although the pottery has changed over time, the ancient techniques remain.

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Pottery is seen all over Amatenango

Here is the artist, Juana Ramírez Gómez. Her family members are also making pottery pieces to sell in their family run workshop

Here is the artist, Juana Ramirez Gómez. Her family members are also making pottery pieces to sell in their family run workshop.

I met artist Juana Gomez Ramírez, who was kind enough to explain her work. Juana was raised by her mother who taught her how to work with clay. She began making pieces when she was only 8 years old. The selling of their pottery was their primary source of income.

In the early 1990’s an artist named Pancho Álvarez visited Amatenango, he showed Juana and her mother how to make clay jaguar figures, a symbol of the nearby jungles. By age 11, Juana started making the jaguars to sell roadside to tourists. In 2004, her detail and mastery of the jaguar was discovered and her pieces were showcased in Mexico. In 2013, Juana was invited to Chicago and her work was displayed at the National Museum of Mexican Art.

The clay is gathering in the surrounding mountains, large pieces are broken down and water is added

The clay is gathered in the surrounding mountains, large pieces are broken down and water is added.

Juana shows how she molds the clay into the shape of a jaguar

Juana shows how she molds the clay into the shape of a jaguar

The outdoor kiln, this is a new addition and is more efficient and better for the environment. Before the new kiln, pottery was set in an open fire. Two large jaguars would use a truck load of firewood. With the new kiln, this amount of firewood will produce 12 jaguars

The outdoor kiln, this is a new addition and is more efficient and better for the environment. Before the new kiln, pottery was set in an open fire. In the open fire, two large jaguars would require a truck load of firewood. With the new kiln, this same amount of firewood will produce 12 jaguars.

This is one of her larger pieces, she showed how the crías, or young jaguars fit perfectly of the mother

This is one of her larger pieces, she showed how the crías, or young jaguars fit perfectly on the mother

A reddish rock is rubbed on the pieces to give them color, the clay is also made smooth with the use of a knife or spoon, here is where the pieces are painted after hardened in the kiln

A reddish rock is rubbed on the pieces to give them color, the clay is also made smooth with the use of a knife or spoon. The pieces are painted after they have hardened in the kiln

 

 


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“Painting completed my life” – Frida Kahlo

Frida's first self portrait painted in 1926 as a gift to her boyfriend Alejandro

Frida’s first self portrait painted in 1926 as a gift to her boyfriend Alejandro

Frida Kahlo is one of Mexico’s most famous artists. While visiting Mexico City, my mom and I looked forward to visiting Frida’s home, Casa Azul. Casa Azul is the home Frida grew up in and where she passed in the year 1954. She lived here with her husband, Diego Rivera, also known for his painting. This beautiful home has become a museum and tribute to this fascinating artist.

Casa Azul, located in Coyocoan, Mexico City

Casa Azul, located in Coyocoan, Mexico City

Inner courtyard, Casa Azul

Inner courtyard, Casa Azul

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Kitchen

Kitchen

When Frida was 18 she was in a terrible bus accident, she had to remain in bed due to her injuries. A mirror was placed above her bed allowing her to paint her 1st self portrait.

At age 18, Frida was in a terrible bus accident, where she injured her back and pelvis. she had to remain in bed due to her injuries. Her parents gifted her some paints and a mirror was placed above her bed allowing her to paint her 1st self portrait. In her home she had two beds, one she used during the daytime (shown here), the other she slept in during the evening.

Evening bedroom of Kahlo

Evening bedroom of Kahlo

Despite the pain the accident had caused her, Frida was strong and brave. She used art to show how she felt.

Despite the pain the accident had caused her, Frida was strong and brave. She used art as a way to express her emotions.

Frida's painting studio

Frida’s painting studio

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Frida's still life painting

Frida’s still life painting

Frida's sketchings image image

Frida passed before finishing this family portrait, she had two older sisters and one younger

Frida passed before finishing this family portrait, her parents are in the center and her three sisters are by her side, it is unknown who the unfinished faces belong to.

Frida also had a disease called Polio when she was 6 years old, this caused her legs to be two different lengths.

Frida also had a disease called Polio when she was 6 years old, this caused her legs to be two different lengths.

Frida was also known for her fashion. It was thought that she wore loose, comfortable clothing to hide the pain

Frida was also known for her colorful, traditional fashion. It was thought that she wore loose, comfortable clothing to hide the pain.

Frida also may have been influenced by the indigenous clothing worn by her mother as shown in this photo of her mother as a child

Frida also may have been influenced by the indigenous clothing worn by her mother as shown in this photo of her mother as a child

Frida Kahlo's unique style

Frida Kahlo’s unique style

Diego Rivera's bedroom in the home and his painting overalls.

Diego Rivera’s bedroom in the home and his painting overalls.

Diego's painting studio next to Frida's.

Diego’s painting studio next to Frida’s.

Photograph taken of Frida.

Photograph taken of Frida.