Read Time: 2 min.
Preserving the ancient Artisan traditions of her ancestors, Maribel and her husband, Jorge, create beautiful amate art from the bark of local trees that grow near their village in Mexico.
How It’s Made
Choosing the Best Tree Bark
“Amate is pulled from the cuttings of the tree called Cream Micrante Blume or the Jonote Colorado tree. This type of tree grows in the coffee zones of Mexico. We choose trees that are between four to six years old in maturity.
Jorge explains the traditional process of handcrafting amate art inspired by Mexico’s ancient Aztec heritage.
Drying the Bark
We calculate 40 cm (about 16 inches) from the trunk, and we do a cutting of the outside of the tree in a circular motion until we get six to eight strips of cutting. The first cutting is the outside of the tree, which we keep to put back after the process is done. The inside – the white part – is what we use to dehydrate to make the art.
To dehydrate the bark, we put it out in the sun.
Transforming the Natural Bark
After it’s dehydrated, we boil water (220 liters – about 60 gallons) and add 110 kilos of cuttings (that’s about 5 to 6 tree cuttings that equals around 243 pounds) and we add natural talc and ash to soften it. We stir it 3 to 4 times during this process.
After boiling for 8 hours, it cools all night and the next day we wash it 3 times to remove the resin and it comes out clean and white again.
We divide the best part of the material that is soft and clean and are left with about 90 kilos (about 24 gallons) of good working material. Then we put the material out in the sun to whiten even more.
We then wash it out one more time and start putting the pieces in a flat surface piece. If there are designs needing strips, we create them during this step and lay them down on the flat surface. Each strip is rolled between our fingers to make sure they bind together well.
Maribel and Jorge’s amate art workshop is filled with authentic reflections of the workshops once used by ancient Aztec amate paper Artisans in Mexico.
Creating Art from Paper Pulp
Then we use a special stone called ‘Nmdudho’ in Otomi, and with very precise taps we compact the material down making sure it stays uniform and the same thickness throughout. The corners are folded to reinforce them. On the parts of design that needs to be very flat, we take orange peels and rub them on the pieces to make sure the pores are eliminated.