Amate - Handmade Paper
To Contact: This artisan’s page is part of the Feria Maestros del Arte website, a non-profit organization providing a yearly venue for Mexican folk artisans to come together to sell their work. If you wish to purchase the artisan's work other than at the Feria, you MUST contact them directly.
C. Júarez 285
Rubelio Sánchez Santos is an Otomí Indians. The Otomí are the fifth largest ethnic group in Mexico, and are dispersed over a five state area. Some Otomí pueblos are located deep in a remote region know as the Hausteca. These villages still retain a strong sense of traditional beliefs and customs. Their world is filled with a pantheon of invisible spirits, good and evil, which affect every aspect of life.
Many events from building a house, death, arguments with neighbors, successful harvests or even love, are explained by the presence of the spirits. The shaman use beautiful paper dolls (Dahi) cut from handmade amate paper to represent and manipulate these forces. They conduct cleansings, healings and "costumbres" (ritual ceremonies) with the "Dahi" to protect the villagers.
Although he is keeping alive this indigenous artform of making amate, Rubelio has taken this art form to a new level. He twists and molds the paper into fantastic patterns is nothing short of amazing. Strips of the paper are braided, twisted and inserted into the design seemlessly.
The paper is, in fact, the bark of the Jonote tree that is soaked in a hot water bath with natural dyes such as flowers, ash, etc. Later the pulp strips are placed on a board in a grid form and hammered with a flat stone until the paper holds its form. Julio has developed several very interesting methods to decorate the paper with natural found objects such as seeds. He also embroiders the paper by hand and elaborately records designs representing the different Otomí gods.