Leonarda, a single mother of three and a savvy female entrepreneur, overcame the odds and built her business with her culture and childrens’ futures in mind. She is a proud member of the Huichol indigenous community. Starting from a young age, Leonarda taught herself how to make beaded accessories and figures. Traditionally made with seeds, Huichol art now uses colorful beads to create elaborate designs. After moving to Bucerías from her village in the mountains of Jalisco when she was a teenager, Leonarda taught herself how to speak Spanish and began to form the Huichol art making business she has today.
She incorporates traditional symbols in her artwork, like plant and animal motifs that exemplify religious and cultural significance. Certain figures, such as deer and coyote, represent the people who have shaped the world, while snakes are associated with rain, crops, health and long life. It is important for Leonarda to incorporate her cultural background into her artwork; every one of her products, from the materials used, to the chosen colors and designs , are significant, as they are closely identified with specific gods and meanings from the Huichol people.
As part of her art-making process, Leonarda covers clay pottery or wooden figures with a thin layer of beeswax. She then pins each individual bead into the wax by hand. What’s unique about Leonarda’s art is that each pattern is created from memory, rather than with a specific blueprint.