Little miracles: mixed-media folk art
Sometimes inspiration for a project comes from a variety of cultural sources. That is the case for my mixed-media Milagros. I was recently gifted a small stash of fancy fabrics—gorgeous sheers, silks, beaded trim, and colorful snips of Indian saris—that were just itching to be used in fiber art. But they had me stumped: the beads and bangles needed to be kept intact and the sheers would look best if they remained sheer. I knew I’d think of something.
Inspiration from an unlikely source
Then the notes of a Mariachi band drifting through the window of our local taco truck started me thinking about the Milagros I’d seen at the California missions. Milagro is the Spanish word for “miracle.” These religious folk charms have their roots in Spanish and Latin American culture. Each tiny charm has a different meaning, and is offered to a saint as a prayer for a specific need or carried in gratitude as a reminder of prayers answered. As the concept of gratitude is important to me, I knew I wanted to interpret these symbols in my own artwork, and the fancy fabrics were a great place to start.
What does it mean?
When researching the symbolic significance of the charms, I found a variety of meanings for each shape. Here is just a sampling:
- Hearts represent love, joy, longing, and worry, but also the sacred heart of Mary and Jesus.
- Hands stand for friendship, strength, creativity, and creation. All of these images are often paired with wings (angels) and
flames (the Holy Spirit), and sometimes topped with a crown.
- Eyes symbolize watchfulness, yearning, and watching over loved ones.
- Animals—such as sheep, pigs, and horses—represent community, abundance, work, and travel.
- Arms and legs symbolize strength, support, movement, and a warm embrace.
- Of course, each of these shapes can be reinterpreted by the maker to carry their own special meanings.
Wow, aren’t these Milagros beautiful?