In this photo essay, I want to show you how Japanese art in packaging design has not only resulted in workshops in origami for our Mayan friends in Mexico, but has resulted in borrowed elements for our pamphlets and also new products.

So first, note the attention to detail and the exquisite use of fine silk papers and serigraph logo prints in both the above, borrowed from PingMag, a Japanese design blog. It is attractive, but its simple elegance does not exude any Mesoamerican art forms, which tends to have more texture, more sensuality, and thicker swaths of expression.

Experimentation. Our latest is directly extracted from Japanese inspiration. First is a bougainvillea fan ornament one of the Mayan associates Pedro designed for my tresses, since I had a daily ritual of pinning a flower in my hair. Next, origami workshop lessons here are taught by my friend Jose Luis Maya Ceballos. (The thick papers are handmade here. Yes I’ve asked Pete to airmail packages of real origami rice paper. In Chiapas it’s a rare commodity.) Lastly, tessellations applied to a serigraph photographic technique to make the Jicara printed magazine. Notice that the graphics have adopted Mayan symbols in a Japanese way.

Freshly Printed

Integration. Our publicity becomes a “casita de paja,” a three-dimensional Mayan straw hut. It is printed on both sides, hand-painted in some parts, and it goes through a “maquina de suaje” which cuts out the exact dimensions and origami folds, so that in each inverted fold there is a brief message in Spanish, English, French or Italian. On the side fold is an introduction and logotype. The backfold is the address. The visual function of the origami method serves to guide the reader through information and reference to Chiapas tradition.

Los libritos y cajitas están hechas a mano por indios Mayas en los Altos de Chiapas. Utilizamos claveles, pensamientos, liquen, musgo, majagua, caña de azúcar, rastrojo de milpa, pelos de elote, conchas de coco, fibra de maguey, cepa de plátano, hinojo, papiro y bambú.” — The little flower books and boxes are handmade from natural fibers by the Mayans of the Chiapan Highlands. We use carnations, pansies, marigolds, moss, fennel leaves, asparagus ferns, cornsilk, sugarcane, banana vines, maguey fibers, fronds, cactus, cornhusks, and bamboo.

Evolution. This is a more sophisticated version of our packaging that mimics the traditional altars and comes with miniature versions of ceramic animals that hold incense and tapered candles. (The Mayan cosmology believes that every mortal has an accompanying animal spirit, similar to the Japanese story of Princess Mononoke. More later on this.) The final product holds the three books of charms and hexes, available in Tzotzil-English and Tzotzil-Spanish. The graphics inside is printed and gilded with silver spray, making carrier box an artistic display. The reference to flora and fauna indicate Mayan reverence for nature and its spirit. This limited edition gift package is available here. $500 Pesos.

Part of our work as industrial designers in a workshop based in a traditional and underserved region is to conserve and enhance–not dilute–the richness of the culture while making things a visual, tactile and intellectual novelty. Herein is the importance of ethnic artisans making things personal and relevant. The whole aesthetic of this piece borrows from Japanese origami, Italian printing press techniques, and Mayan sensibilities with a child’s imagination. (Interestingly, it is not Spanish.)

“Every moment is not without its beauty.”

Spanish Words of the Day:yeso” plaster | “losa” adobe, slab | “casa de paja” straw thatched hut | “retasos” margins | “deluir” to dilute

Edit: Animal spirit in Wikipedia “Concepts similar to that of the dæmon can be found in several cultures’ belief systems. such as Fylgja from Norse mythology, Naguals and Tonals from Aztec mythology, aku-aku from Easter Island, and familiar spirits from early modern English witchcraft. Elsewhere, a parallel can be seen in the Jungian concept of the anima and animus.