Lurin is not a place you would imagine would house a artist community. Once you get past the ruins of Pachacamac you reach a stretch of chincharon restaurants, then a non-descript center of town with concrete and brick buildings. The minibuses stop at the mercado then continue past walls painted with political messages. The stop for the Ichimay Wari section of town, the Barrio Artisanos, has a big sign which seems to blend into the landscape. Fortunately there is a more obvious cross which serves as a landmark.
Lurin was our first experience with a home stay in Peru and it was wonderful. We were staying with Maurelio (the artist Rowshan was studying ceramics with) and his family: his wife, Hilda; sister-in-law, Janet; niece Roxanne; and daughters, Angi, Olga and Romina, the baby.
They are a wonderful family and incredibly nice people. They had recently finished the guest room. Janet and Hilda alternated cooking huge delicious meals. Everyone except Angi whose school was too far, ate lunch together and talked and laughed.
Rowshan and I communicated as best we could and Roxanne, who spoke some English helped. On the first day we went to the workshop with Maurelio, he showed us how some of the pieces were made in molds and then how to sculpt a face. He made a ball of clay, a couple notches with a wooden tool (tallelor) for nose and eye sockets. Then with a few more quick moves, he shaped the features. Another couple notches became lips. A couple balls of clay were flattened and somehow delicately shaped into eyelids. He made it look incredibly easy and the whole process took him a couple minutes. Rowshan and I tried and ended up with some rather disturbing looking results.
For the second day, I had the opportunity to paint with Dennis' host mom, Magdalena. She showed me how to paint leaves and flowers on eggs which had a big hole in the front where a creche scene would be placed. Magdalena painted quickly and easily. I found I had a talent for sticking my fingers on the part I'd just painted leaving smudgy fingerprints. Magdalena is married to Emelio, whose store we'd visited in Lima. His workshop is in the back of the house, an open yard with a place for a fire and freshly dyed yarn hanging in colorful rows from lines. In a covered area were several large wooden looms. Weavers quickly looped different yarns through to make the beautiful patterns that Emelio designed.
In Magdalena's workshop was a beautiful tapestry by Emilio, based on designs from the Paracas culture.
Day 3 was exciting for me because I was able to start studying retablo with Donato. Donato is a brilliant artist. His retablos are like none that I've seen. He arranges the figures and clothing like a choreographer positioning dancers and the figures look as if they would start moving the moment you turned your back.
Donato had already prepared the dough and showed me how to knead it into gesso and shape the face in a mold. Then he shaped the neck and the rest of the body. I worked too slowly so the dough dried and cracked. The figures are small so it is delicate work. Donato would then bend the bodies and legs slightly, or tilt the neck a little giving the figures a feeling of motion. In the afternoon we added arms. We shaped them so they could be playing instruments. Donato was working on figures for a large mirror surrounded by wooden boxes, each of which held a scene. Behind me was another, further along, with figures with an initial layer of paint.
During a break we went to visit the ceramics workshop of Donato's brother. They were preparing bunches of trees of life along with Christmas decorations. Donato explained he started out learning ceramics then switched to retablo because it was more difficult. Clay wasn't fine enough to work in the detail required for retablo.
Evenings at the house were pleasant. Before dinner we'd talk, watch TV or (rarely) help with some of the food preparation. Rowshan impressed everyone, especially Olga, with his dishtowel into a chicken trick.
Day 4 I worked on instruments and arms in the morning and then made clothing in the afternoon. Teresa showed me how to paint the figurines.
On Sunday morning, Maurelio took Rowshan, Lucho (who works in the workshop) and I hiking. There was an ecological park in a village near Pachacamac. It was beautiful. A path went up some mountains which, because of the location, were covered with green and flowers when everything else was brown. Birds sang and eagles circled. There were lots of big boulders with caves in them. The view was magnificent. It was about a 3 hour hike.
In the afternoon, I went to Donoto's workshop. His family was there, talking and listening to music. Teresa showed me some techniques for painting the box and then helped me glue the figurines into it. My retablo was complete. Donato approved of it and everyone was very complimentary.
The last day we learned that several of the artists wanted to give us a farewell breakfast at the office. We had tamales and looked at some of the art. Donato showed us a retablo he'd done based on the legend of the founding of Lurin. It was of course beautiful and neat because it was taking what was originally a Spanish art form and using it to tell the ancient myths of the region.
After breakfast we pulled out instruments. One of the artists played guitar. We jammed on some Peruvian songs. Then he taught us a popular Quechua song and another artist joined in on vocals.
Ichimay Wari Breakfast Music
Eventually everyone realized it was Monday and they needed to get some work done and we had to get to Lima.
Using every last moment, Maurelio showed us how to use liquid clay in a mold. Then we were offered "a little food" for lunch. This turned out to be a huge amount of food about 30 minutes after breakfast. Our last stop was Teofilo's workshop. Teofilo's specialty is clay masks which are very unique. He had lots of other interesting pieces as well.
We then had to say goodbye to everyone and catch our taxi back to Lima.
Rowshan and I agree that this has been our best experience in Peru so far--which says a lot since we have really enjoyed almost everything about Peru. It was so wonderful to be around such friendly, welcoming and talented people. Even though we were there for a short time, we feel we've made some wonderful friends as well as learning a lot.