Meet the Artisan

Olegario Hernandez Ramirez

Olegario Hernandez Mendoza is from the Pinotepa de Don Luis Distrito de Jamiltepec, Oaxaca. He is dedicated to his craft and to him a gourd is like a sheet of paper where he can draw and let his imagination take flight. Olegario began doing traditional designs on his gourds, but soon felt the need to give them his own label, so at age 19, he left Pinotepa to learn Spanish. He then entered the art school in Mexico City, where he learned printmaking, sculpture, oil painting, watercolor and murals.

He returned to his village to apply the techniques he learned to gourds, thus, combining colors, inks, gold leaf, silver and copper. He works with his wife and daughters in his workshop named Yutin Tuyachin (gourd tree).

Yachi is the fruit of the jicara or gourd tree and grows abundantly in the mountains of Pinotepa de Don Luis, in Costa Chica, and the Mixteco regions of Oaxaca. His ancestors took the yachi from nature for centuries for use in their kitchens as a container for water, atole (drink made from corn), or head coverings from the sun.

Through the gourds, Olegario has found a means of expression capturing in them myths and legends, landscapes with flowers, plants, and fantastic animals. In his art the Mixtecos take flight.

Olegario knows when the fruit is mature and not green. After finding the size and shape desired, he takes out the seeds and cleans inside. Depending on the sun-dried exterior and whether the gourd has a light or dark color he will choose his method of decorating it. The gourds are very thin and he must work very carefully.

Templates he has made on a drawing sheet help him carve the concave surface of the fruit. The iconography of Olegario-based recreations include both flora and fauna traditional and contemporary designs, mainly geometric. His work possesses great creativity and and innovation, and have even become jewelry adorned with gold leaf , silver and copper. He also produces napkin rings, cups, balls, key chains, necklaces, rattles, and souvenirs for weddings, among many other things.

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