carving a design into the mate using the buril

The Beauty of Traditional Peruvian Crafts: Mate Burilado

Traditional Peruvian crafts are some of the most beautiful artisan works in the world. The diversity, colors and creativity shown in each work represent centuries and centuries of history and culture of the country. This type of folk art is now trending in world markets. A great example of this Peruvian craftwork is mate burilado.

Andean woman carving a gourd

Mate burilado is a pumpkin (Lagenaria siceraria), similar to a gourd, which is dried and then carved.

To read the carving of a mate burilado, you must do it in a circular way and from the bottom to the top of the container.

A Little Bit of History

The mate burilado is a symbol for the traditions and beliefs of the Andean communities of Peru. It’s an ancient Peruvian art – the oldest samples are for over 3000 years old – but it reached its height of popularity during the Republican era.

In that time, mate burilado were used as containers for delivering food or chicha de jora, a ceremonial beverage from the Peruvian highlands.

As they are a symbol of Peruvian culture, the carved images represent day-by-day activities, myths, typical dances, or other Andean traditions – but if you are the designer, you can carve one anyway that you like!

Let’s Make One!

Raw material:

This traditional Peruvian craft is made from a pumpkin. In the U.S., you may use an ornamental gourd if the Lagenaria siceraria variety is unavailable.

To transform the pumpkin into the mate, you’ll have to remove the peel and leave it in the sun, turning constantly, for 10 or 15 days until completely dried.

a traditional mate pumpkin looks like a cross between a gourd and a pumpkin

The tool:

The chisel, or buril, as it is known in Andean highlands, is the main tool for this Peruvian craft. It is made from wood of the Quina tree with a steel nail whose tip is triangular.  

buril is like an engraver's chisel with a wooden handle

You can find similar tools in the U.S. by searching for “engraver’s chisels with handles.”

Making the Mate Burilado

There are just a few steps to make your Peruvian handicraft.

carving a design into the mate using the buril

1.   Take your dried mate and clean it. For that you use mud from good soil and a bit of sand to smoothly polish the surface.

2.   After that, take the buril and design the images you want. Add depth and thickness. Be patient and remember that the characteristic of this craft is that is read in circle, from bottom to top.

3.   Spread it with oil and cover with dried grass/straw ash. Then, rub that mixture off so that the mate is shiny and the ash has filled in the engraving. This will highlight the motif.

4.   Finally, clean it again with water and let it dry.

If you don’t know what to draw, I recommend  checking Tinkuy for inspiration. They have plenty of products in which you can see this beautiful type of work.

beautifully carved and colored mate burilado

And then, you have your own mate burilado. Easy to make and a perfect addition to you home.

About the Author

Kelly Cubas is a Peruvian journalist that loves spending her free time reading and learning new stuff about her country. She also loves travelling and making beautiful handmade crafts. Twitter addicted, she can be found at @kellyfcubas.

Kelly is currently working at Tinkuy Shop as managing producer.

See all of the stunning Peruvian crafts on the website:

A Note about this Article

Thanks to Kelly Cubas for sharing with us the beauty and quality of traditional Peruvian crafts.When she approached me for a collaboration, I was excited to take her up on her offer.

I had just been to visit my in-laws, and my brother-in-law was commenting on some of the beautiful vases that his parents had collected from their world travels.

What struck me was how well the pieces went together, though their origins were spread across the globe from the Southwest U.S., to Greece, to South America.  It was as if the artisans shared a common vision.

It’s important to remember that people all over share so many commonalities; we’re all part of the human race.

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