As a frequent guest of Mahekal Beach Resort over the past 10 years, I have amassed a wide collection of their beautiful, hand-painted Mayan pottery. It’s always a delight to see the unique and artistic pieces created at Mahekal, spearheaded by the resort’s resident artisan, Julianna. During each stay, I can’t help but purchase one of the colorful plates, bowls, luminarias, or jewelry boxes. These authentic art pieces make perfect gifts for friends and family as a memento of your trip to Playa del Carmen—Julianna and her son have even custom-painted tiles for my sister-in-law.
During a mid-January stay this year, I decided I wanted to try an experience outside of my normal routine of watching a Steeler’s game in the nearby Boli’s Bar. So instead, I opted to head to the painting studio on-property and try my hand at creating my own luminaria. My fellow artisans-in-training were a young woman and a family from the Midwest who all elected to paint figurines, while the youngest in the family also picked out a hanging mask.
In my first journey into artisan painting, I learned a few helpful tips along the way. First, the majority of the available pieces have black outlines in a variety of shapes to help make painting a bit easier. These lines stay on the piece even after it has been glazed and fired. Additionally, each piece begins with a white color, so if you want something more colorful, you’ll have to completely cover the areas without designs with the desired background color. Having had a clear vision of what I wanted to create, I elected to leave my background white so that my chosen turquoise and copper colors would have a more dramatic effect.
During my class, I picked up on some other techniques to help me create the harder, more decorative elements of my piece, including using the other end of the paintbrush to create perfect dots, small flourishes and “swooshes” for added effect, as well as to paint the insides of any cutouts present in the piece. In all, it took me around three hours to complete my luminaria.
As part of the class fee, you’ll purchase the pottery, paints, and tools, as well as the firing and glazing. Make sure not to do this on your last day as you’ll need to let your masterpiece stay in the studio overnight. The professional on-site artisans often times will assist you with your decorations, really helping bring your piece to life by cleaning up lines or adding some last finishing touches. Note that the artisans accept cash only—no credit cards!
All in all, this is a perfect afternoon activity that will send you home with truly one-of-a-kind souvenir from your trip. With Boli’s Bar so close by, you can enjoy one of their signature margaritas while you paint. The family present in my session couldn’t wait to head back the next day to create more unique treasures; I know I will be returning to the painting studio on my next visit, and maybe try creating a bowl.