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Global Education        < Previous



Mexican Tin Embossing


Today's snack: How about a Tortilla Pizza? Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle C. shredded, low-fat mozzarella cheese (or spicier Mexican cheese) on one 7" whole-wheat tortilla. Slice one plum tomato into thin slices and arrange on top. Bake in a nonstick pan on the bottom rack of the oven for 10 minutes or until the tortilla is crisp. You can shake on a little basil and drizzle up to 1 tsp. of olive oil. Then eat and enjoy. Arriba!






A globe or world map


One piece of thick cardboard


One disposable foil cookie sheet with a plain, smooth, flat surface


Masking tape


Ballpoint pen


Permanent bright-colored markers such as Sharpie brand


One section of old newspaper



Tin embossing is a popular craft from Mexico. Look up Mexico on a world map or globe and see how far it is from your neck of the woods.


When Mexico was first colonized by Spain back in the 1500s, the purpose was to make the native people into Christians. So big churches were built. The only lighting they had in those days was candles in big chandeliers, or light fixtures. All those candles created a lot of black smoke. The smoke was ruining the colorful paintings that the Spanish used to teach the native people about Christianity.


So, the art form of repujado (reh poo HA doe) was introduced. Religious icons, or symbols that the people liked to look at in church, were etched into tin or copper, and hung in the churches, because they would stand up to the smoke and last longer.


People liked the look so much that they started using repujado to make other kinds of pictures, ornamental items, decorations for their saddles and bridles, and jewelry.


Today, real artists do tin embossing with special metals, a wide range of expensive tools, and special inks and paints. But we're going to use household items that are relatively cheap and achieve much the same effect.


Tin is a soft metal that can be formed or molded a lot more easily than harder metals. That's why it is used in this craft, because it is "malleable" - it can be changed into a different shape.


To "emboss" something means to raise it up. Have you ever seen a formal wedding invitation? If you run your finger over it, the type is higher than the paper. That's because the ink has been "embossed" through a chemical process. Also think of the Braille symbols that blind people can feel and "read" with their fingers.


With tin embossing, we actually press IN to the tin surface in order to raise up areas around where we've pressed in. We create a design on two levels, then: some areas of the design are lower, and some are higher.


To make your surface, have a piece of cardboard ready that is square or rectangular. Then cut a piece of the tin cookie sheet out that is slightly larger than the cardboard. Fold the four sides around the cardboard; you may need to snip the corners diagonally to get it to lay flat. Then tape down the four edges on the back side of the cardboard with masking tape.


When you turn it back around, you should have a flat square or rectangle of smooth tinfoil.


Now decide what your "focal point" or center of attention will be. With Mexican tin embossing, one item in the middle of the design stands out in the midst of lots of patterns and lines and shapes. So in your planning, decide what will be your "focal point," and how you would like to fill the rest of the space around it. Every single spot on that tin will have either a design embossed in, or a bright color.


The "focal point" is usually in the middle, bigger than everything else, and it is the thing upon which you want the eye to "focus." For inspiration, you can look at a picture, a rubber stamp, a comic book, nature - whatever you like and can draw well.


Press down hard with the ballpoint pen into the foil, and draw your focal point now. You can have patterns, stripes and dots inside it if you wish. For example, you might draw a cow and draw blotches on its side.


Now for the rest of the picture: with Mexican embossing, often there will be several layers of outlines around the focal point, in the same shape as it is, sometimes all the way out to the border of the picture.


Or there will be stripes, checkerboard, diagonal lines, polka dots, lots of intersecting circles, or any number of other designs to fill out the picture to the edges and bring the focal point even more to the center of attention.


When you are happy with the lines you have etched into your tin, make sure to roll up your sleeves so that you don't get any ink on your clothes,you're your tin foil on a piece of old newspaper, and decorate your picture with permanent markers. Try to have at least three bright colors; Mexican embossed tin is always very bright and colorful!


Your finished product makes a great gift, framed or unframed, and looks pretty on a kitchen windowsill or on an office desk.


By Susan Darst Williams Global Education 04 2009

Global Education        < Previous
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