In the workshop of Luis and Julia Huamani Rodriguez Julia and Luis went through the entire process of retablo building and I could see how their painting technique on the figures was different from that of Donato’s workshop in Lima. They had a much more illusionistic painting style when they addressed painting the clothing: they would make highlights and shadows in the fabric. They were incredibly helpful and open to speaking to me about their technique and workshop practices. Out of all the workshops we would see in Ayacucho this one would explain the most in terms of technical processes.
How is your workshop organized? Who is the master and how many people work in the workshop?
Luis is the master of the workshop. It is only him and his wife (who he has taught to paint and sculpt). Sometimes their children (who look to be around 10 years old) help out as well.
Where did you learn how to build retablos and when did you start learning?
When Luis was 11 he started studying with one of the masters in the Jimenez family. Julia has been working with Luis on the retablos for 9 years.
What kind of materials do you use?
The paint is acrylic craft paint (Rosy brand). The clay is made from flour, plaster, chalk, marble dust, and water. The Gesso is chalk, carpentry glue, and water. They make their own paint brushes with CAT HAIR (!!) because they run through brushes so quickly and it would not be economical to buy brushes all the time.
Do you make anything else besides retablos?
Yes, they make small masks, skeleton figures (the Mexican style skeletons are very popular and they make a lot of skeleton wedding cake toppers and skeleton musician figurines), ornaments (musicians, mermaids, angels), and they make mirror retablos. They can make whatever the client wants but mostly they make traditional Peruvian retablos.
What scenes do you typically depict in your retablos?
They do harvest scenes (the tuna, or prickly pear, harvest and corn harvest in particular), traditional dances (scissor dance), Semana Santa Scenes, Nativities, and Noah’s Ark.