Taller Leñateros was mentioned to me by several of you! Which is why I was really happy when I found it purely by accident during one of my wandering sessions this morning. It is literally around the corner from my casita. Where it lay hidden until today…just waiting for me to take that detour.
Not only was I given permission to photograph whatever I wanted, a soft-spoken young man took it upon himself to lead me around and give me a top to bottom tour. You can go on the tour too if you want in the photographs coming up next!
Again, because I can't make links when blogging on the iPad, I'm going to quote directly from their website. I will provide the link when I return to Moss Cottage next week.
In the highlands of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas lies the beautiful colonial city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. In the heart of San Cristóbal is a cooperative artist workshop for making handmade paper and innovative books. Founded in 1975 by Mexican poet Ambar Past, the cooperative seeks to preserve, support and promote Mayan and related culture, mostly in the form of paper, prints and artist books. Over the past 25 years it has produced several landmark books. In many cases the best stories are not only the ones found between the covers but the tales that record how the book came to be important in the first place.
We are the woodlanders who walk in the hills gathering dry branches and deadwood from fallen trees, collecting firewood without chopping down the forest. We come down from the mountains, carrying bundles of wood, of pitchpine and split encino for the hearths of the Royal City of San Cristóbal de Las Casas. We walk through the mist, leading our burros, selling firewood from house to house. We knock on people's doors, offering pine needles to spread on the floor, moss, flowers of bromeliads and orchids for manger scenes.
Ideas and images come to us in dreams. That is how it is with the Woodlanders: the Moon and the daughters of the Lightning give us dreams to light our way. We recycle our visions to turn them into art; we also reproduce the dreams of others: images from the ancient codices, from pre-Hispanic clay seals, motifs from Mayan embroidery and ceramics. The Earth also inspires us: we photocopy the fossil of the tropical leaf, the texture of a seashell. We relearn hand-printing techniques: xylography, basketography, petalography. We reinvent the unicorn so that its horn will perforate a cardboard pinhole camera, as found in 12th-century Arab documents discovered by the Chiapas alchemist Carlos Jurado, ritual master-counselor of the Woodlanders.
Taller Leñateros has created a multi-ethnic space for artists and becoming-artists. We foment artistic creation among the most marginalized communities. The Woodlanders invent, teach and exercise the art of handmade paper, bookbinding, solar silkscreen, woodcuts and natural dyes. We benefit the ecosystem by recycling agricultural and industrial wastes to create crafts and objects of art and rely on the sale of artist books, postcards, posters and printed shirts for our continuing success. We were once servants, washer women, wandering vendors and unemployed. Now we own our own business.Little by little, without subsidies or capitalist partners, pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, we have been able to buy and constuct the minimal equipment with which we work. We have managed to construct our Workshop with our own hands. The only resource we have had, and the most valuable, has been ourselves and the ideas of the collective, our rural- indigenous folk wisdom.There are places in the highlands where every passerby adds one stone to the cairn, a testimony to her or his presence and journey. The Woodlanders say this how the mountains grow through time. Our work is our stone for the pile, our scale to weigh the years, an offering for the new millenium.~Sent from my iPad