Juan Vázquez Menor
Although they are unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, most Mexican buyers — unlike foreigners — always haggle to pay less for the teapot bule or guaje (gourd) or one that is finely painted inside and out by maestro Juan Vázquez Menor of Temalacatzingo, Guerrero.
So far, the Chinese have not been able to reproduce them because machines cannot be used. The gourds are cut, polished and hand painted, with natural paintings made with plant and minerals gathered from nature. Juan says, "If there was a machine to make work such as mine, everything would be easier. But this is art, each is unique made with the hands of my family and cannot be reproduced by a machine.”
Juan was the winner of the National Handicrafts Award. His work, created with patience and love, allows his family to survive. The process begins with the collection of plants and minerals that are mixed to use as paint.
Once a gourd is dry, it can be cut and polished with fine sandpaper, inside and outside, so that the paint adheres well. They cannot produce large quantities because everything is done by hand. There are pieces that have taken Juan between 20 days to two months to complete. There are no copies — each one is unique — each one is different.
Juan’s work is a family heritage. He recognizes that the younger generation does not want to follow the traditional way of painting the gourds. It can be discouraging for parents like Juan, because their children want to go to the U.S. to look for a better life, and they do not appreciate the traditional crafts of their parents. Young children may enjoy learning the art in the beginning. But as they grow, they begin to realize that unfortunately there is not much profit in this work and that they are not going to become rich. That is why they leave. It is the worst misfortune for a peasant craftsman.
If the federal government or Fonart supported him, said Juan Vázquez, he would go abroad to present and sell his handicrafts. For example, in Europe we would do very well. People unfamiliar with his work, greatly admire it. They would not haggle on prices and he could sell very well.