Let me start off by saying our 3rd graders have developed far more than the skills needed to create masterful yarn paintings in the folk tradition of the Huichol Indians of Mexico. These kids have practiced patience, persistence and dedication in the (almost) completion of these masterpieces. Forevermore, the 3rd graders and I will value and respect the effort that goes into creating the beautiful craft traditions of different cultures around the world. What at first glance appears to be a colorful souvenir from a foreign country is now a masterful work of art containing hours of patience and the blood, sweat, and tears of the artist. Never again will a piece of folk art be taken for granted. Luckily in our case, our Huichol yarn paintings will not be sold to a visiting tourists for less than it is surely worth. Phew.
The Huichol are highly creative people who reflect their strong ceremonial traditions and rich mythology in their visionary art work. They live in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in West Central Mexico.
Through their art work, whether it be beaded art, yarn paintings, or their embroidery, the Huichol encode and document their spiritual beliefs through visual symbols. Anthropologists consider this a significant part of their culture, for the Huichol have never developed a written language.
Maury artists studied the symbols used in Huichol art making and chose one or two symbols that spoke to them personally. Some chose the corn, promising health and prosperity, or the sun for power. Some related to the good luck butterfly, or the serpent, god of the ocean. I personally liked the wolf, keeper of knowledge and wisdom. After selecting an studying the design of the Huichol symbol, students were asked to come up with a personal symbol to represent their own interests. We got lots of footballs and soccer balls. Some students chose paintbrushes, mountain ranges and tidal waves. Others picked metaphorical symbols like the turtle to represent their quiet, relaxed nature. Then they had to design a way to combine these two symbols into one new composition. The objects could not be simply next to one another, they had to incorporate one another to create a new logo or symbol altogether. This is where things got fun!
We started by drawing our evolved symbol on cardboard (this is when those cereal boxes come in handy!). We colored in crayon so that any of our background image that was not covered in yarn would blend in. Crayon was key. The waxy surface of the crayon would repel the wet glue and not cause bleeding like markers.
Carefully measured strips of yarn had to be placed neatly, side by side, to create a painterly effect. It took a lot of patience to master the most efficient rhythm for this kind of work. Everyone developed their own unique style but true patience and un-rushed work was rewarded with a magnificent finished product.
These gorgeous and painstakingly precise works of art will also be on display in the New Year!