Francisco Coronel is world known for his extraordinary lacquerware over gold and silver leaf. No other artist in his field has achieved such recognition. With more than 25 awards he is the only artist that creates those wonderful pieces completely covered with gold and silver leaf in Olinala Guerrero the most important lacquer center in Mexico.
Born in Olinala, Guerrero in 1941 he learned from a young age the art of lacquer work from his grandfather and his parents. In the 70’s, Francisco started working with gold and silver leaf. He was commissioned to create a magnificent batea to offer as a present to Queen Elizabeth II. PresidentVicente Fox presented Pope John Paul II with a lacquer gold leaf trunk on his latest visit to Mexico City.
Coronel begins his work by sanding the wooden (made from linaloe wood) boxes and trays or drying and cleaning the hard bark gourds. Next he applies the base coat made with chia seed oil, personally prepared by him, and earthen pigments. The chia oil helps prevent the lacquer from cracking. It is let to dry and then is stone burnished until smooth. The process is repeated applying several coats until the desired color and shine are achieved. The pieces are then left to dry for up to a month!
The pigments he employs come from natural deposits in the region. For example, the black color is produced by burning coal bark and grinding it into a powder. The chia oil is obtained by gathering seeds, roasting and grinding them in a hand mil.
Water is added to form a paste that is then pressed to extract the oil. The process is so time consuming that many artisans of the region have abandoned the use of the Chia oil substituting it with commercial oils. (Thus the quality and authenticity of their crafts has diminished).
The silver and gold leaf technique is a very delicate process in which Mr. Coronel carefully applies the leaf and then stone burnishes it so it adheres smoothly.
The application of the leaf must be done in an enclosed room with no air drafts so that it doesn’t affect the gild. After the leaf is applied, the piece is once again left to dry. Later he skillfully paints his design with a fine brush, also made by him with bird feathers or cat hair.