While staying at an all-inclusive in Mexico on vacation recently, one of my favorite things to do was work on an art project at a little artisan's stand near the pool. A young Mexican girl named Christina and her uncle ran the stand, where they sold painted pottery, beaded jewelry, and miscellaneous trinkets. While many adults purchased ready-made pieces, children came regularly to paint small pieces of clay pottery that had been whitewashed and stenciled with pre-drawn designs on them for customers to paint. The procedure was that the children painted the dinosaurs, turtles, fish, bowls, etc. and left them overnight, during which Christina or her uncle added painted embellishments and then covered them in a shiny lacquer. In the morning, excited children picked up their creations, which were beautiful and looked somewhat like this:
I was interested in painting a platter. I've always enjoyed creative projects, and although the designs were predrawn, I thought it would be cool to create something to remind me of our trip. Sadly, Christina said they were all out of the plate design that I wanted, a big, bright display of fruit. I came back each day to see if they had restocked, but they hadn't; all they had left was one platter whitewashed and predrawn with something that didn't appeal to me. That's when I decided to see if they'd let me draw my own design on a plate. It took a couple of days of explaining (and finally an English-to-Spanish translation app), but Christina's uncle okayed it and said he'd bring a platter painted plain white the next day.
I went online to Pinterest and typed in contemporary, tree, paint; ever since I was a kid, I've liked drawing a certain kind of tree, but I'd never painted one and needed inspiration. I found it in work by an artist named Karla Gerard. Here's one of her paintings on which I based my design:
Once the platter arrived, I started sketching a plan
and started painting, very slowly.
Christina had to close up shop for the day then,
so I came back the next day and worked some more.
[Since I'm sure you're curious...I received the GAP t-shirt at BlogHer Chicago about five years ago; it's soooo comfortable.]
Hours later, I again set the platter aside and returned the next day. I think everyone who crafts loves it for the way we can get lost in the process; I find it very relaxing. This project was slightly stressful, though, because I'm not really a painting person; I was a little worried about creating a mess, color-wise.
I enjoyed conversing (awkwardly) with Christina. At one point, I asked her what she does with her earnings from the shop. She looked puzzled. I tried again. She shrugged and said,"Nothing" but then added, "Give it to my mom." I felt kind of stupid, assuming that she was working the stand for spending money and not for her family's survival.
Two days later, my platter was done. It's not perfect, certainly; there are some messy spots, and you can see where I went over the beginning plan in Sharpie underneath, but I'm really happy with it.
All in all, I think I probably spent 10-12 hours at the art table, and I loved every minute of it. Being able to relax and create on vacation made this activity one of the highlights of my vacation. Another highlight was this moment...Christina (who speaks only Spanish), said, "Hey, Lady..." and showed me this note:
"Do you want to get a drink with me?"
I was puzzled (Who would mind the store?), but I politely said, "Sure" and stood up. (It was kind of awkward, as she didn't get up.) Then I suggested, "Would you like me to go get the drinks?" She laughed hard and said,"Yes!" It was then that I realized she was thirsty, poor, and knew that, as a resident of the all-inclusive, I could get as many drinks as I wanted for free; she had meant "Will you go get a drink for us?" meaning herself and her friend who was helping her that day. (They wanted Cokes.] When I got back with the drinks, I explained why I'd been confused, and we had a good laugh together over it. In the days after that, I didn't wait to be asked :)
Here's a pic of Christina and me on the last day of our vacation. I told her I would send her a photo and put it on the Internet, which made her light up, so this one's for her! Gracias, Christina!