||In the town of Sertânia (PE), many women who worked on local farms used clay to make utilitarian objects such as pots, pans, jars and plates. It was there that Maria Esmelinda da Silva grew up. “I was born in 1928, and that’s where I was raised. As a child I used to make clay horses to play with. At 8 I was already working with straw, and my family moved to Brasília in 1964. My brothers tried to work as bricklayers. Some went back to the Northeast, others stayed.
I had 4 children, and started working as a seamstress, but I had to retire because of an accident, falling down a ladder, and to this day I still have problems with my leg”.
Mrs. Esmelinda, as she is known, says she was always aware of buriti palm tree leaf stalk and knew of many beautiful things that could be made with that material. “No one taught me how to make these saints. I came up with the idea myself, looking at images and practicing. I have sold my thing in Brasília (in a craft fair) for 20 years. I come every Saturday and Sunday, and a grandchild who helps me painting the pieces drives me around. But I’m the one who does the carving.”