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Open House Features Lacquer Gourds from Guerrero

Many flowers w. bird in flight

By Susan Page

Galeria Atotonilco has recently acquired more than 100 new lacquer gourds from the remote village of Tamalacatzingo, Guerrero, where, arguably, the most beautiful lacquer in the world is produced. Some call these gourds the Faberge eggs of Mexico. The gallery is featuring these spectacular works of art at their open house in their 6,000-square-foot showroom, which also exhibits folk art from all over Mexico, vintage textiles, contemporary pottery, and much more. Directions to the gallery, five miles north of town in a beautiful country setting, are in our ad in this issue.

In May, Galeria Atotonilco owner Mayer Shacter attended the annual town competition for lacquer work in the isolated and barely accessible mountain village of Tamalacatzingo—one of only five towns in all of Mexico that produce lacquer ware. There are no hotels or restaurants in this indigenous village, so a family, who has become dear friends, hosted him.

This indigenous village has been producing lacquer work for thousands of years, long before the Spanish arrived. What were once utilitarian vessels and offerings to the gods have now become stunning works of art. The skills required to cultivate and grow the gourds, dry them, creatively cut the top, clean the gourds, and then apply layer after layer of mineral powders and chia oil, are highly specialized skills cultivated over many generations. A gourd may require two to four weeks of work to complete.

During the year, the artists make small gourds and toys, easy to sell in street markets. Only once a year do they go all out to create their most spectacular works for the annual town competitions, because the awards involve prize money, supplied by government agencies such as Fonart, Conaculta, and local art organizations. The prize money is an important source of income for these artists.

Mayer Shacter makes the arduous trip to Tamalacatzingo to be sure he is there on the day of the competition, and he is the only person purchasing the extraordinary pieces. His purchases add to the income the artists are able to earn on this special day. In addition, Galeria Atotonilco is virtually the only gallery in the world where these extraordinary works are available.

About 12 years ago, anthropologist Marta Turok spent time in the village persuading the artists to return to using traditional chia oil, and mineral earth powders and plants for color, ingredients that had been abandoned in favor of less expensive linseed oil and commercial dyes. Virtually all the artists now announce with pride that they have returned to the centuries-old natural materials. The result is an unctuous, translucent quality and soft depth of color unobtainable with artificial chemicals.

To view these amazing gourds and a gallery full of other high quality folk art, you are welcome to attend the gallery’s gala open house on Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27 from 12–5pm both days. Except for this open house, the gallery is open by appointment. For more information, call 185 2225 or visit

Open House

Galeria Atotonilco

Featuring Lacquer Gourds from Guerrero

Sat and Sun, Aug 26 and 27, 12–5pm

Directions to the gallery are in our ad in this issue.


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