Friday, July 23, 2010

One Little Bowl

It all started with one little bowl. 
Several years ago on a trip to Santa Fe I visited the Museum of International Folk Art. There happened to be a huge festival that weekend and I wandered around in awe, blown away by the weaving, paintings, and especially taken by the intricately etched gourds from Peru.  But it was in the museum gift shop that I fell in love.

It was the Huichol beaded bowls that stopped me in my tracks. I was instantly smitten with them, mesmerized by the vivid color combinations, the intricacy of the patterns created by hundreds of tiny little beads, a stunning micro-mosaic inside a hollowed out gourd.

I was on a very tight budget at the time, but I couldn’t leave without one. I splurged on one tiny little bowl, about 2” wide. I remember that when I got home I unpacked it gently and held it cupped my hands, wondering who did this? What is the story, the history? The meaning of the design? How is it done? I set it on my windowsill with a few other collected treasures.

Over the years I picked it up often to marvel at it. I became obsessed, wanting to learn this art and translate it into something of my own. A few months ago the bug got so strong I finally sat down to do some research. I read that that Huichol (pronounced wee-chol) Indians of central Mexico create their art as an expression of their spiritual beliefs. A shaman guides them on a yearly pilgrimage ending in a ceremony which induces a visionary state. Their art derives from their visions. Originally the Huichol decorated the hollowed-out gourds with bits of shell, seeds and stones to use as offering bowls to the gods. When glass beads became available, they began using them.

I then went on to read about they were made, coating the gourds with a mixture of beeswax and pine pitch, applying each tiny bead one at a time, by hand. This is my first attempt, a clumsy practice on the lid of a wooden box. I wasn’t trying to create a cohesive design – just playing with different patterns, getting used to the rhythm of applying the beads, experimenting with color.
Then I went on to my own little (wooden) bowl.
With just two practice runs under my belt, I decided to create some lamps for my upcoming show at Childhood’s End Gallery this fall. (see post below).  These two are made from wooden lamps each of which I decorated with about 4,000 beads . They are about 8 inches tall.
The next one started with a papier-mâché dress form.  This one is called Party Girl. She's about 18 inches tall with the shade, and I used over 12,000 beads to create her dress. It took endless hours. I secretly pray no one will buy her…
I am working on another larger bowl now and the ideas haven’t stopped coming. I dream of beading furniture, musical instruments, a birdhouse, shoes, the list gets longer by the day. I can’t stop, I’m in love with the process. It’s very meditative and I can totally see why it’s a spiritual experience for the Huichol. Of course, Peyote is also an important part of their ceremonies. I think I’ll skip that part.


cheaptherapy said...

oh Pam,
of course all of your work always blows me away - your bowls though...i am in AWE (and lust).
i LOVE handmade bowls.
they are sacred to me.
my 'faith tradition' is mostly Christian. each year during the Christian season of Lent i put a handmade bowl in each room of my home (including the laundry room!).
my intention in doing this is to encourage me to stop and notice each bowl every time i enter the room. then i stop, offer thanks to the creator of the bowl and offer my own openness/willINGness.

don't know if/when you'll ever market your Huichol bowls. please let me know ~ i'll start saving my pennies!

in the meantime, i send you all that is good.

Pam Corwin, Business of Crafts said...

Lisa, you are the sweetest! I only did the one tiny bowl and am working on the second, but I have a feeling most of what I do will be other things. who knows, though - I've love to be part of your beautiful sacred bowl tradition. I'll keep you posted if I do more!

Elizabeth said...

A dear friend has a very large collection of these beautiful bowl that she has displayed in glass toped shadow box style coffee tables !! They are stunning and electric and oh so very beautiful!!! She told me the whole story and tradition behind them and I am lusting after one or two even more!! Someday!!!
What you ahve done with your lamps is truely stunning.. I do lots of freeform beadwork and I find it very meditative but I am not sure that I could stick with this process like you ahve !!!