Posted on Leave a comment

How and Why I Make Lotería Wall Art

Lotería is a game from Mexico that is a lot like Bingo. The difference is that instead of numbers and letters, you have to match pictures.

When I was a little girl growing up in Hayward, California, my siblings and I would play Lotería at my abuelita’s (grandmother’s) house. We would use beans for markers and we bet a penny on each hand that was played. This was in the late 1950’s, so a nickel went a long way.

I’m not sure when it began, but I started seeing lots of folk art in Mexico using various images from the Lotería game.  Maybe it’s because every Mexican has played Lotería at their abuelita’s house that these images are so beloved.

I made my first Lotería art piece eleven years ago.  I always loved La Sirena, so that’s the one I chose to interpret.  Since then, I have also created La Bota, La Estrella, El Pajaro, El Nopal, La Rosa, El Paraguas, La Calavera, and most recently, La Corona.

I make my Lotería pieces by first increasing the size of an actual Lotería card so that the proportions are correct. I trace the overall design then I break it down into light and dark sections and colors. Choosing the right fabrics is always the most difficult. I use mostly batiks because they come in many shades and hues.

The parts of the design have to be cut out of fabric adhesive paper that has to be adhered to the wrong side of the fabrics. I often use a light box to lay everything out.  Once I’ve laid them out, they have to be carefully ironed to the background fabric. It is difficult to remove them if you make a mistake.

The next step is to carefully print the name of the card and the number on the fabric.

After all the fabrics have been adhered to the background fabric, I add two borders of contrasting fabric. Believe it or not, this is tricky because it’s so hard to make perfectly parallel lines and right angles! I make a layer of batting and and another fabric so I can begin quilting.

 I sew everything down using various types of machine stitches.  You have to go slowly!  After all pieces are sewed down I add hand embroidery and beads if it’s part of the design.  

Finally, I quilt the background using a free-motion type of quilting.  Think of this as drawing with your sewing machine.

Sometimes what seems the most simple step turns out to be the most difficult.  When the entire piece is done being sewn, I have to trim it to exactly 12 x 16 inches so that it will fit over a purchased canvas frame.  This drives me nuts at times.  Fabrics can stretch a lot no matter how many rulers you have used or measuring you have done.  I have been known to tear things apart and start over.  In any case, once I have attached the piece to the frame, it is done except for my signature! 

Voilà, the final product!

Posted on Leave a comment

What does “Ay Chinaca” mean?

Once a year, my girlfriends and I go on a Chicas’ Weekend trip.  We talk, dance, and cook a lot.  Gerrie, who is an excellent chef, once exclaimed while cooking, “Ay chinacos!”  I had never heard the word chinacos before.  I asked her what it meant and she didn’t know, either.  

Somehow, that word stuck in my mind.  When my daughter and I were trying to come up with a name for my online store, chinacos popped up.  We decided to make it feminine, so ¡Ay Chinaca! was what we decided to use for the name. 

We also checked to make sure it didn’t mean anything bad in any language.  After a little bit of research we discovered that Chinacos was a word used to refer to the guerrilla fighters during the Mexican Revolutionary War.  So, this is one of the reasons the main photo is of myself (from many years ago) and my fellow Mexican folk dancers posing as revolutionaries or, Chinacos!