José Luis Cerda Báez
Grand Master José Luis Cerda Báez, from Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, learned wood carving at the age of 15 from his father, don Alfredo Cerda Moreno. His great aunty, Cuca Cerda, was one of the major proponents of arts and crafts in Pátzcuaro. With a tradition of more than 80 years, the technique of wood carving in his blood. He recognizes it as an inheritance: his grandfather was an outstanding mask carver and his father carved more than 50 years ago in the Paracho style, which was in jeopardy of being lost due to the boom in the production of guitars in Paracho, Michoacán.
Before José Luis begins carving, he needs to ensure the wood is completely dry. Then he begins cutting away the excess material. He works with chisels, a variety of sharp knives and burins, cutting and shaping the piece. Next, he draws the designs he will incorporate and transfers them to the surface of the wood. He engraves the motifs, taking great care as to how the relief work will appear. Next, he polishes the wood util planes and sandpaper until all splitters are removed and the surface is smooth.
Many of the pieces are left in their natural color. As José Luis works with the wood, he takes advantage of such characteristics as color, grain, knots and even stains, and incorporates these elements into the decorative appearance.
José’s inspiration comes from utilitarian objects used daily by the Purépecha people. There are spoon holders (cucheroros), trunks, boxes of different sizes and a variety of miniatures such as the masks used by chancers in Michoacán. He is featured in the Fomento Cultural book “Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art”.
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