The “Corn Cane Paste” (Pasta de caña) technique was created by the Purepechas (indigenous people from Michoacan, Mexico) in the 18th and 19th century.
The Spaniards came to Michoacan to influence the inhabitants with their doctrines; like they did in many other places in Mexico. They tried to oblige the Purepechas make their Saints like they were used to do it back inEuropeusing mainly wood carving. The interesting thing about this ancient technique is that the sculpture looks almost the same but weighs ten times less than the traditional wood carving. In Mexico these solid wood sculptures are called “de Bulto”, because they are made of one big piece. They are used for the traditional fiestas and the walking processions.
When the Spaniards found out that the Purepecha sculptures had the quality that they needed but ten times lighter, the Spanish monks started to teach the Purepechas how to make Saints instead of letting them do their own pagan gods.
The process starts gluing together the corn canes; the natural glue is made out of Orchids bulbs and cactus salvia. This becomes the internal structure of the final piece. Then we grind the canes and the glue and we have a paste that we will use to cover those canes structure and make the final details like face, hands and other features.
The second stage is sanding the surface until we have a smooth texture and then we finalize with the polychrome and the gold leaf finish.
Nowadays not many people know how to make sculptures using this ancient technique from the Purepechas in Michoacan. It’s a unique way to make Saints……
Mexico has many different kinds of handcraft and I hope you will discover these wonders with me in my following blogs.
Dancing Chef Victoria