The art is made by overlaying carved wood or gourds — in the case of ceremonial bowls — with a beeswax – pine resin mixture, then meticulously placing the beads on this sticky base, by hand, one by one until all of the patterns seen by the minds eye take form and resolve into a completed whole.
Because the substance is this beeswax mixture, it is very malleable in high temperatures and should be handled with care. You should never place the art in direct sun for extended periods or store in areas of extreme heat.
Many of the people marketing Huichol Art in the U.S. and abroad are using assembly line production methods. The art being sold as “Huichol Art” is being made by a group of people, many of them are not even Huicholes. And, it is being made on a repetitive basis by people working for hourly wages. The people exploiting them are doing this so that they can sell art “as seen” in their catalogs. This is the antitheses of the creative process and is a new form of slavery for a way of life that was previously free from this type of commercial homogeneity.
When purchasing, do what you can to ensure you are buying original work.
How? Ask where it was produced. Ask if you can get another exactly the same (if you can, be cautious).
Why? The Huichol depend in part on the income derived from their work. Commercial production is both flooding the market and putting the benefits in pockets other than the Huichols’.
By Robert Otey and adapted here with his kind permission.
Editor’s note: Authentic Huichol art is available from Novica.com in association with National Geographic. Each piece is hand-crafted using traditional techniques, and many pieces are signed. A link is provided from every work of Huichol art to the bio of its creator.