Mexico Tinwork or Hojalata

Mexico Tinwork or Hojalata

by Dorothy Bell


tin4Man has historically shaped metal into both useful and ornamental objects. Mexico Tinwork or Hojalata dates back to the 16th Century colonial period and many credit San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato as the birthplace of this art form.

Considered Mexican colonial hacienda and folk art, the material was easy to work with and economical. Often called the poor man’s silver, tin was pounded, stamped and punched to form many elaborately decorated and functional works of art replicating many of the techniques and designs of its more expensive brother.

Tin was often the material used to make religious nichos –  a shadow box – for saints, religious objects, alters and shrines to ancestors. These are commonly used during the Day of Dead celebrations or at Christmas and other religious holidays.


Oxidized Nichos 


Tin historically has been used to craft mirror frames, crosses, candelabras, ornaments, jewelry, boxes, figures, and bowls and is so today.  Often talavera tiles, stone, glass and mirror and other materials are used in conjunction with the tin work.

tin2Tin mirror frame incorporating Our Lady of

Guadalupe images in printed glass tile

Two main cities are known for the craft; San Miguel de Allende and Oaxaca. San Miguel is known for its oxidization techniques whereas Oaxaca specializes in natural and lacquered looks.



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