Zenaida Rafael Julian, Ocumicho, Michoacán

Zenaida Rafael Julian, Ocumicho, Michoacán

The winding roads finally stopped at Ocumicho, Michoácan, Mexico. Zenaida Rafael Julian lives and works in the small Purépecha village of Ocumicho. Winding roads up into the mountains lead the way to this pueblo (village) lost in time.

The devil figures and other whimsical ceramics made in Ocumicho have true Mexican folk art roots and are highly sought after by collectors. Zenaida has been creating the handmade "devil figures" the women of her village have become famous for since she was a girl. In her small home, she proudly exhibits her handcrafted folk art - brightly painted exotic animals, people or mythical figures.

Almost all the women in this pueblo make the handcrafted devil figures. It's difficult to drive through town with many of the artisans running from their homes to ask you to come in and see their work, each hoping for their share of your time and money. The day I first saw Zenaida's work, I knew I had struck gold.

Clay is gathered in the surrounding hills and brought in bags on the back of burros back to her home. It must then be pounded and pulverized. Next impurities are sifted out, it is dampened and left in a plastic bag to age and become the right consistency.

She learned her craft from her mother and started shaping traditional figures at age 14. But her imagination took over and she needed to express herself with images that were not traditional. They sold, so she was determined to continue in her own style. Zenaida wins competitions with monetary rewards. The money is used for housing improvements and to help support her family.

Zenaida's lifestyle is humble and rooted in the age-old stories and legends of the indigenous Purépecha people.

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Ocumicho, Michoacán