Glass shards are piled by color — clear, brown and green — and frame the parking area of the Magdalena Apasco Etla industrial park that Studio Xaquixe (say Sha-Keech-Shay) calls home. Inside looks more like a warehouse than a place where artist Francisco Toledo collaborates to make the stained glass windows at San Pablo Academic and Cultural Center in Oaxaca’s historic center.
Studio Xaquixe glass artists form practical vessels and sculpture using traditional mouth-blown techniques in a glory hole fueled by recycled used vegetable oil. Molds give uniform shape to fused-glass bottles that will hold private-label artisanal mezcal. The glass is post-consumer, recycled and Xaquixe is a model for environmentally friendly, energy-saving practices.
When Eric and Elsa got married, gifts for guests included blown glass flowers from Xaquixe (which means foot of the mountain in Zapotec) where Elsa is the administrative manager. Today, we had a hard time choosing from amng the array of the glass flower-topped cork stoppers and colorful bottles.
In the 1980’s, I learned to blow glass on the shores of Lake Michigan. Then, I began collecting to support artists who could do it much better than me. When my father died years ago, I bought a studio art glass vase in Tucson, Arizona, to commemorate his creative life. In the 1990’s, I met the Cenedese family in Murano, Italy, and was gifted with two tall asymmetrical vases that I hand-carried back home where they hold a place of honor.
When Dale Chihuly exhibited at the Smithsonian, I went. I followed Chihuly on film as he showed us the world’s five greatest glassblowing centers, including Mexico. I am in awe of the skill required to execute this art-form. I am mesmerized by what results. Visiting Studio Xaquixe returns me to the soul of art glass. Even though the glory hole is cold, the space is hot with transformative energy. And my companions — well, muy amable!
Thanks to Elsa Sanchez Diaz for showing us the studio and gallery, and to Christian Thornton and Salime Harp Cruces who dreamed the dream and manifested it in 2002. Their work adds to what distinguishes Oaxaca as center for artistic creativity and innovation.
How to Find Studio Xaquixe
Don’t make the mistake I did by going first to San Agustin Etla! Studio Xaquixe is 45 minutes from Oaxaca’s historic center just off the Pan American Highway 190. Drive north from Oaxaca on the federal highway toward Mexico City. Pass the turn-off to San Agustin Etla. Keep going another 20 minutes to Magdalena Apasco Etla. (How many Etla’s are there? Since Etla is a district, many villages carry it’s name.) You will arrive at Industrial Park Oaxaca 2000. Turn left. (You or your driver will need to leave a driver’s license at the gatehouse.) Continue to Avenida Mexico. Turn left. A sign at the driveway entrance marks the place: Avenida Mexico Lot 7A, Manzana D. Tel: (951) 521-5612, firstname.lastname@example.org