Has it already been six months since we alerted you to the activities of a local group of expats who were out looking for new and gifted Mayan artisans? Apparently it has, for just the other day, our offices were visited by a few from this group, informing us that the big event is coming up soon.
If you don’t remember what we’re talking about, click here to read about the initial efforts of Joan and Paul and a group of others who were getting ready to hold a "test" event early in 2008. The test event was a sale of painted rocks held in Joan Ferrell’s house, and it was indeed a big success. Not only did the two brothers whose rocks were for sale walk away with more money than they had made previously in months working at their craft, but the following day they got a big sale of products to a store in Valladolid which practically doubled their take. Obviously, the artists had found their market.
Since last we talked to them, the group that started all this has given itself a name, AANY (Amigos de Artesanos Nuevos del Yucatan – Friends of New Artists of Yucatan), that will guarantee their inclusion at the beginning of any phone book. They have also acquired an attractive logo, as well as blessings and occasional assistance from organizations like the local branch of the Museo de Arte Popular and Cultural Banamex. They have been working tirelessly over the last few months to pull together and cultivate artists whose work is original, creative in its use of local materials and meets a level of quality in its fabrication.
Strangely, this has been both easier and harder than they expected. They have been finding more artisans with original ideas and creative products than they expected. These products are not found anywhere in the local "casas de artesanias" here in the Centro and they have had to drive throughout the State to farflung villages, tracking down leads and finding the original artists. When they finally find them, they are not always successful in including them in the project. Some of the artists have greeted them with open arms, telling them that they have been waiting for an opportunity like this, that has been so far unavailable to them. Others are wary of the foreigners, shy or just closed off to showing their work to outsiders. And some, while interested in participating, are unwilling to do so because it might distinguish them too much from a group or family of artisans producing similar but less interesting work.
In the process of discovery, the AANY group has developed more and more creative ways of introducing their ideas and presenting themselves to the artisans and their families. The amigos usually go out to the small villages in groups when they are looking for someone in particular. They try to bring along Paul Ziegler, who probably could win the prize for Friendliest Person on the Planet and Paul brings along his twirly sticks or juggling accoutrements. While he entertains the children and their families, others like Joan Farrell do their best to explain the opportunity to the artist in question and Cherie Pittillo documents the events (the photos in this article are hers). Once everyone is on the same page, Cherie documents the work of the artist and Joan begins the delicate process of committing them to participate in the upcoming event.
The artists are a wide-ranging bunch. Not all of them are Mayan villagers, but some of them are. A few of them have been honing their craft for many years, like the man from Izamal who carves wooden animals, walking sticks and chess sets. But some of them are in their teens and early twenties, such as the young man whose father makes papier mache butterflies. He helps the family out by making butterflies too, but he created his own design of papier mache Mayan villagers, which are charming and unique and will be featured in the upcoming event. There are both women and men in the group, and they range from eager to participate to reluctant and cautious.
What we have been calling the big event is the AANY Art Sale on November 29. It will be held at Joanna and Jorge Rosado’s school, TTTI, located on Calle 57 #492 between Calles 56 and 58 (click here for school website). All day on November 29, the common areas of the school will be filled with 30 artists from around the state who will be not only selling their wares, but also demonstrating (when possible) the process of making them.
Products for sale will be made from clay, coconut, bull horn, rolled newspaper, wood, metal, jicara and gourds, cotton and thread, papier mache, wire, cocoyol (a seed), henequen, stones and more. They include everything from original designs of embroidery to complex mobiles to unique pottery whistles of ancient Mayan design. Even if you don’t buy anything, the exhibits themselves will be a living museum of crafts from around the Yucatan.
This event is completely self-funded and proceeds from the sale will all go to the artists. If you are interested in volunteering to help set up, please contact the Merida Men’s Club who will be taking care of the physical setup activities. The Rosados have donated the use of the school, the AANY group has donated their time and Cultura Banamex has donated the transportation which will bring these artists from all over the state into Merida for that weekend.
We encourage all our readers to take some time to visit this event and, if the spirit moves them, support these artists by buying some of their products. It seems to us like everybody wins!
The Event: Presentando Los Artisanos Nuevos de Yucatan (Presenting the New Artisans of the Yucatan)
Who will be there: 30 Artisans from around the State of Yucatan
Hours: 10 AM til 5 PM
For more information: Email joanafarrell [at] yahoo [dot] com