The word "Mexico" evokes a number of images. They can refer to the sun, the beach, the desert, the Mexican temperament or the Aztecs.
The possibilities are endless, but there is no doubt that the country with so many colors leaves no one indifferent. The hot, vibrant culture has shaped no less energetic art. This is what seduced Anna Orska and made her set out to find inspiration for her next jewelry collection. The artisan studio that served as her workspace for several weeks was located in the town of San Martin Tilcajete in the Mexican province of Oaxaca. The region is famous for its alebrijes - sculptures made of cardboard, paper or wood, hand-painted in extremely colorful geometric patterns.
Alebrijes depict fantastic creatures, hybrids created by combining the characteristics of different animals. Their origin is linked to Mexican artisan Pedro Linares, who fell into a deep sleep in the 1930s as a result of an illness. In his dream, he saw a donkey with wings, a rooster with bull horns and a lion with a dog's head. All of these animals uttered the same word: Alebrijes! When he woke up, he decided to share this astonishing experience.
"In this art I was impressed by the saturated colors and regular, very precise patterns. The paintings are created with hair-thick lines. Many patterns have specific meanings derived from Zapotec symbolism. Making such decorations requires years of practice and calligraphic skills. I have seen many works of all sorts of shapes and ornaments. What surprised me, however, was that none of them were functional. They were all purely decorative. Despite the more than 70-year tradition of this craft, my idea turned out to be a novelty for local artists." - recalls the artist.
The work on the carvings is usually done by entire families, with individuals specializing in a particular task. Thus, there are experts in choosing the right branches of copal wood and carving them with machetes, knives and chisels. A good machete must not make a sound when struck. Only then is it suitable for work. The carving process should begin as soon as the wood is cut off, then it is the softest and easiest to work with.
"In the workshop where I worked, the sculpture was made by Francisca, a fantastic person with whom I shared a great bond," - says Anna. - "She handled the machete while the men painted the sculptures with a calligraphy brush. I was delighted!"
The sculpture is then sanded, and in the next stage it dries under the Mexican sun for about 4-8 hours. After this time it is primed to cover any imperfections with a smooth layer of dust mixed with glue. This type of solution dries very quickly to be sanded and smoothed again later. A piece primed in this way makes an ideal base for painting.
"The paint is applied in layers. First a solid background, and then fine patterns, with hair-thick lines. I tried to create the paintings myself, and although I am no stranger to the brush, I was not up to the task. Painting takes much longer than carving - from 2 to 6 days." - explains the designer.
The finished pieces went to the ORSKA workshop, where they were framed in brass. Each piece of jewelry is a unique work combining sculpture, painting and jewelry art. Each is decorated with different patterns, drawing from the folklore and beliefs of Mexico. The strongly artistic expression stems from the faithful reproduction of Indian art, with no intention to correct or interfere with such a complete and coherent style.