Mexican Lacquer


Brief history of Olinalá Lacquer                          Go to Collection

Extracts from Ruth Lechuga´s

“Origins and forms of Lacquerwork”

Lacas Mexicanas – Artes de México – Franz Mayer Museum

Photos from Artes de México – Lacas Mexicanas




Holding a wooden Olianlá box in your hands is in it self a treat. But then you open the lid and you are in for a delightful surprise: An exquisite and fragrant lemony scent that is the oil extract for the Linaloe tree, indigenous to the region, refreshes your soul. These art pieces are a delight to all senses and are part of our Fragrant Wood Collection.


Mexican Lacqer«In the state of Guerrero, lacquelwork is made in the mountainous areas of Olinalá»

Olinala’s art pieces are made by a lengthy and painstaking process  that involve up to 29 separate steps of carving, painting and the application of lacquer. Passed down from one generation to another, each piece is replete with motifs ranging from flowers, landscapes and animals pertaining to their habitat (including rabbits, foxes, jaguars, cats and deer based on Nahuatl mythology) depicted in colorful, unique patterns either on carved wood products or gourds.

«Artists in Olinalá employ two different techniques. The rayado (scored) technique is achieved when a second layer of lacquer, generally of a contrasting color, is painted over the base and a design drawn into it with a sharp point while the lacquer is still fresh. Various layers of the soil and pigments are applied immediately, then quickly removed from the outlined design to expose the first layer of lacquer. In this way the artist obtains a design in relief that contrasts with the background color.

Olinala Chest Round


The second technique is the dorado technique, a name that originated at a time when it was customary to enrich decoration with bands of gold or silver leaf. Once the first layer of lacquer is dry a design is drawn onto it with a fine brush. Small quantities of a heated mixture of chia oil and soils, called size, are combined with the desired colors on a painter’s palette. While the scored technique is exclusive to Olinalá, the gilded technique is used in all three lacquerwork centers inthe state of Guerrero.


Aje and Chia are the traditional oils, both of pre-Hispanic origin, used in these techniques. The cochineal insect, which dwells in certain tropical trees, is boiled, ground, filtered and dried in order to extract aje. In the production of chia, a seed (Salvia Chian) is roasted, ground and mixed with water to form a paste. This paste is then pressed in order to extract the oil, which in turn is heated for its preservation. Soils and stones with a high lime content are ground and combined to make colorants.»

As for the oil extract it is derived from the Linaloe tree, which due to unregulated deforestation in the area has had a steady decline (which peaked in the 1930s) in the region. Reason why the wood work is done in pine tree and then treated with linaloe essential oil. Sustainable practices have been in placed by a myriad of governmental agencies allowing for the recovery of the tree. One of such agencies is the National Fund for the Promotion of the Crafts with whom Muccapazza & Co directly works.



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