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    Raw Material Culture

    Today’s Mexican crafts and design have all been centuries (even millennia) in the making

    When I was in high school in Mexico City, Chippendale chairs were the rage. They populated most of the dining rooms of my adolescence, from my best friend’s to the neighbors’. You might eat your grandmother’s mole enchiladas while sitting on one, but the design references were, quite clearly, foreign. Recent years, though, have brought an inward shift. Designers no longer wish to emulate 18th-century British furniture; they look to traditional Mexican aesthetics to feed their creative energy, reviving everything from indigenous hand-woven fiber techniques to the intricate leatherwork inherited from the Spanish during the Colonial period to rugs inspired by the modernist style of Luis Barragán. All of this is Mexico, this hot mix of pre-Hispanic ceremony, Vice-Regal power and centuries of mestizaje (miscegenation), as alien cultures merged and germinated to become the sumptuous, multihued creature that we know today.

    In contemporary crafts and design, the country teems with exciting interpretations of traditional pieces. Local artesanos partner with avant-garde designers to offer new takes on ancient techniques, experimenting—playing—with the myriad influences of Mexican visual identity. Here are seven of our favorites.

    Silla Partera by Ewe Studio

    Photo courtesy of EWE Studio.

    It feels almost sacrilegious to describe EWE Studio’s creations as furniture. Their shapes, though imposing, hint at the delicacy of their design. The pieces are sculptural and mystical, with names such as Aura, Rito (ritual) and Altar. EWE’s master craftsmen apply ancestral techniques to the volcanic rock so common in Mexico, as well as to onyx, hand-blown glass, marble and charred wood. Each piece takes its inspiration from the country’s past: The Aura lamp references Catholic rituals of the Colonial era, while the Silla Partera (midwife’s chair) celebrates indigenous birthing chairs from the pre-Hispanic period. Find them at The Future Perfect and Galerie Half or, if you’re in Mexico City, make an appointment to visit their showroom.

    A traditional birthing chair. Photo courtesy of 1st Dibs.

    Uxmal rugs by Mestiz Studio

    Photo courtesy of Mestiz Studio.

    Vibrant and playful, Mestiz Studio creates woven rugs, hand-thrown pottery and objects made with natural fibers, with each collection speaking to an aspect of Mexico’s land and culture. The shape of the Uxmal rugs references architectural details from a Mayan archeological site, while their ochre and ivory hues echo the region’s Vice-Regal period, when vast henequen haciendas populated the Yucatán peninsula. Designer Daniel Valero, a Saltillo native now settled in San Miguel de Allende, nurtures his whimsical collections through the constant pursuit of collaborations throughout the country. You can visit the showroom by appointment in San Miguel de Allende, or buy through AGO Projects in Mexico City and New York.

    The shape of the Uxmal rugs references architectural details from a Mayan archeological site. Photo by of Jose Pablo Dominguez.

    Glazed clay pineapple by Ananas

    Photo courtesy of Ananas.

    The most striking new object for your living room might happen to be a pineapple. But not just any pineapple: At Ananas — which means, of course, pineapple in French — artisans from Tangancícuaro, Michoacán recreate these glazed clay pieces, adding an elegant, modern flair. Throughout Mexico, the traditional green sculpture, glazed with copper to achieve its distinctive hue, has graced the homes of folk art lovers ever since the Alejo family in San José de Gracia created their first decades ago. In the hands of Ananas, they are transformed through new colors and textures. These delectable pieces add a subtle sheen to any living room.

    A traditional green copper Pineapple.

    Tule ottoman by txt.ure

    Photo courtesy of txt.ure.

    Hand-woven using techniques honed by the Aztecs hundreds of years ago, the tule-fiber lounge chairs and loveseats made by txt.ure seek to revive forgotten designs and methods. Low stools practically identical to these were used by the Aztecs to designate status; now they have been reimagined for contemporary living rooms. Picture one of their loveseats strewn with bright pillows or a woolen throw to complement the naked beauty of the natural fibers.

    Photo courtesy of txt.ure.

    Campeche chair by Mike Diaz

    Campeche chair by Mike Diaz. Photo courtesy of Mike Diaz.

    First crafted in Manila before traveling to North Africa, Spain and, finally, to the New World, the Campeche chair (or butaca) finds new expression in designer Mike Diaz’s Metz chairs. The tropical style suggests endless days of sun and palm trees reminiscent of their namesake Yucatán city; their rustic materials speak of nights hazy with wood smoke and fireflies. Relax on these cowhide, mesquite and copper butacas while you watch the sunset, wherever you may be. Find them online at KRB.

    An example of a colonial Campeche chair.

    Hand-dyed rugs by rrres

    Photo courtesy of Res.

    With collections echoing the aesthetics of Annie Albers, Burle Marx or Miró, the rugs at rrres are handmade by Zapotec weavers in Oaxaca, using ancestral expertise handed down through generations. Working closely with master artisans allows designer Javier Reyes of the Dominican Republic to truly understand the materials and techniques, informing his creative process from beginning to end. Res, which means “nothing” in Catalan—as in “no label”—is a collaborative project in which cultures, places and people meet in each piece; Reyes claims to find his inspiration in the emotional connection between the countries of Latin America.

    Indigenous blankets from the village of Teotitlán del Valle in Oaxaca. Photo by Analuisa Gamboa.

    Ladrillo bag by Aurelia

    Photo courtesy of Aurelia.

    Aurelia begins with three sisters living on three continents, and ends with a collaborative fashion piece that speaks of simplicity and flamboyance. The Ladrillo (brick) handbag pays homage to their Spanish grandmother and to their Mexican influences. Artisans sculpt ethically sourced wood to craft the body of the bag, while the leather straps are cut and embroidered into intricate designs that reference Mexico’s Charrería culture, which originally derives from the aesthetic of the Spanish corridas and was later reinterpreted in the old Haciendas of the Colonial period. Each piece is unique, handmade and customizable. You can choose from several types of wood and even more strap designs on their website.

    A traditional Charrería saddle. Photo courtesy of International Arts and Artists.
    Anna Rimoch

    Anna Rimoch is a writer from Mexico City, where she lives with her husband and their two children. She’s constantly excited by the city’s vibrant energy, and by the architects, teachers, grocers, restaurateurs, historians, street musicians, designers, locksmiths, butchers, tlacoyo sellers, journalists and everyone else who makes the city a living, breathing work of art.

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