Tag Archives: alebrijes

Saving Copal Trees in Oaxaca — Palo Que Habla Bioconservation Project

Copal is the tree used to carve the wooden figures we call alebrijes in Oaxaca. It is a disappearing resource. Thanks to Jacobo and Maria Angeles in San Martin Tilcajete, where many of the region’s alebrijes are made, there is a bioconservation project called Palo Que Habla to replant copal trees for the next generation of carvers. On land near their home and studio, a vivero (nursery) is planted with young copal trees, as well as other native Oaxaca seeds such as corn, beans, squash and garbanzo.

Palo Que Habla nursery (vivero) where copal seedlings are started

Palo Que Habla means wood that speaks.

It is open to the public and there is no cost to enter. It is designed as an education center and families are encouraged to bring their children to see how important sustainability and biodiversity is now and for future generations. Please call ahead to arrange your visit.

Young copal trees, planted and growing

It takes 30 years for a copal tree to mature before it can be harvested. But that doesn’t stop many from cutting trees when they are 15 years old or younger. Only the white copal wood is used for alebrijes. It is carved when it is fresh and soft, then dries and ages for up to a year before it is painted. The need to sell can take priority over ecological issues here and in many places around the world.

Potted succulent starters are also available for sale

Jacobo Angeles became president of the San Martin Tilcajete committee to establish a community effort to plant copal seedlings and nurture them. He served as leader of this effort for the first six years of the program. The village committee oversaw 40 hectares (almost 100 acres) of land. But, as the trees grew, people became impatient and didn’t want to wait for them to mature. Jacobo and Maria decided to start their own project 10 years ago.

Jacobo y Maria Angeles alebrije from copal wood

Now, the copal tree resources in the Ocotlan Valley of Oaxaca are depleted and Jacobo says he and other carvers are sourcing their wood from Yautepec, Xochitstlan and Yanhuitlan in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca, at least two-hours from the city. Angeles says that hundreds of pueblo artisans were cutting wood for alebrijes.

A shady place to relax and refresh in the Vivero

(By the way, it is the sap of the copal that is used for ceremonial incense in Oaxaca.)

Five thousand trees are planted three times a year in various locations, on a total of 140 hectares of land, or 346 acres. The biggest challenge, of course, is water. Young trees need tender care. Palo Que Habla nurserymen and women capture rain water and also use well water. Thirty years ago, they could depend on rain alone. Today, it is not enough.

Leaky aluminum bucket becomes recycled planter

The copal nursery project was started in 1994 when Maestro Rodolfo Morales saw that cutting copal was not sustainable without a plan to put new trees in place to replenish those that were being used for the folk art. Since then, the Rodolfo Morales foundation has donated saplings to the program to ensure a continuous supply of copal.

Alebrijes come in all shapes, sizes, and figures

The Vivero/nursery project is expansive. It aims to create a pollinator garden for butterflies and bees, and will produce local honey from the hives. Lavender fields have been planted. Stately and sacred ceiba trees line the avenue bordering the seedling cultivation area. There is a space for resting and relaxation, as well as well-equipped toilets and a guest house.

I’m in awe of and admire the dedication of Jacobo and Maria Angeles to preserve their culture through commitment to agricultural sustainability via Palo Que Habla. More than this, their vision is to create a teaching and learning environment to sustain diverse regional craft traditions of Oaxaca and the Ocotlan valley.

Hand-made Mogote Ceramica wall plaque at Palo Que Habla

A recent addition to the portfolio of studio craft is Mogote Ceramica. This is a high-fire clay workshop where functional and decorative pieces are made from local clay, native to San Martin Tilcajete. They are fired in gas kilns at 2246 degrees Fahrenheit and are lead-free. Potters from the region make beautiful glazed pieces that are reminiscent of pre-Hispanic and contemporary design. When I was there, I met visiting artists from Korea, Japan and Mexico City, some of whom are in residence.

The ceramics studio is across the street from the alebrijes workshop, beyond the parking area. Don’t miss it. Take a peek into the sales gallery, too, to see if there is anything there that appeals. My dad was a potter, so I have a special affinity for this craft. I left with eight pieces of pottery! Years ago, I stretched to buy alebrijes made by Jacobo and Maria. They are in North Carolina. They are beyond my capacity now!

Remember, you are welcome to look and admire and there is no charge to visit any of the workshops or the nursery. Enjoy!

Mexico Mash Up Today– Silver Jewelry and Alebrijes for Sale

I’m representing a California collector who wants to divest. We are starting today with alebrijes, those whimsical copal wood carved and brightly painted figures from San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca. Plus, a grouping of four bracelets — cuffs and bangles. Three gorgeous pair of sterling earrings. More to come as the week unfolds.

How to buy: send me an email with the Number of the Piece you want, along with your address, including Zip Code. I will ship to the USA and Canada. I will then send you an invoice for the cost of the piece plus the shipping charge and promise to get it out to you pronto!

1. Howling Coyote, 11×11-1/2″. Signed Candido Perez, San Martin Tilcajete. $125

#2. Piano-Playing Coyote (left), 10-1/2×3″, signed Miguel Diaz, $125 and #3. Catrina, ceramic, 8-1/2×3″, $95

SOLD. #4. Gold-plate gemstone bangles, set of 3, adjustable, carnelian, lapis, onyx (1 carnelian stone missing), $35

#5. 10 bangles, sterling silver, alpaca + white, black, turquoise enamel, 2-1/2″ inside diameter, $120

#6. Vintage Sterling Bubble Cuff (L), adjustable, $135 and #7 Sterling Ball Cuff, marked Stefano 925, $135, adjustable

SOLD. #8. Federico Jimenez pitcher earrings with turquoise, Frida Style. $275

Federico Jimenez mark, sterling silver, #8 Frida Style

#9 detail, Melesio Rodriguez earrings, $150

#10, Oaxaca sterling filigree by designer Mario Perez, $225

 

Que Supresa! Oaxaca in San Diego, California

As I drive south from my son’s home in Huntington Beach, California, on my way to visit Barbara and David, and dear friend Merry Foss in San Diego, I marvel at how the landscape looks like Mexico, how the climate feels like Mexico. Except there is development everywhere, new houses, shopping centers, freeway congestion. Infrastructure.

Pedro Mendoza and Carina Santiago from Teotitlan del Valle, in San Diego, CA

Pedro Mendoza and Carina Santiago from Teotitlan del Valle, in San Diego, CA

When I stop at the Pacific Ocean overlook, everyone around me speaks Spanish and I take up a conversation with a young mother traveling with two daughters from El Paso, Tejas (the J is a soft H. Tay-Hass). Oh, you might think that could be Texas. Sometimes I think we are borrowing the Southwest from Mexico and the day of reckoning will come when most of us will speak Spanish and justice will prevail.

Sisters Consuelo (left) and Violante Ulrich continue the Spratling silver tradition

Sisters Consuelo (left) and Violante Ulrich continue the Spratling silver tradition

At Barbara and David’s house, I expect a small gathering. I know my Teotitlan del Valle friend Merry Foss will be there with exquisite beaded blouses from the State of Puebla Sierra Norte made by a cooperative of indigenous women that Merry started six years ago.

Jacobo Angeles with copal wood carved and painted ram from San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca

Jacobo Angeles with copal wood carved and painted ram, San Martin Tilcajete

I know that friends Violante and Consuelo Ulrich who continue the William Spratling silver jewelry making tradition in Taxco will be here. (I take study tour goers to meet them in Taxco during the February Textile and Folk Art Study Tour to Tenancingo de Degollado. Spaces open.)

Then, I turn the corner. Que Supresa! Que Milagro! I  see part of my extended family from Teotitlan del Valle and Oaxaca.

Shopping for Oaxaca embroidered blouses

Shopping for Oaxaca embroidered blouses

I had no idea that Pedro Mendoza and his wife Carina Santiago and their son Diego would also be there with their terrific handmade rugs. Carina runs Tierra Antigua Restaurant and Pedro is a weaver/exporter.

Or, that friend Jacobo Angeles drove a truck up from Oaxaca filled with alebrijes made by him and family members in San Martin Tilcajete, in Oaxaca’s Ocotlan valley.

Ortega's Folk Art, Tonala, Jalisco, Mexico

Ortega’s Folk Art, Tonala, Jalisco, Mexico

And, then there are ceramics from Mata Ortiz, and hand-carved whimsical wood figures by Gerardo Ortega Lopez from Tonala, Jalisco.

If you can get to San Diego this weekend, there’s a great Expoventa (show and sale) at Bazaar del Mundo, where you can meet all these artisans and buy directly from them.

Mata Ortiz pottery from Chihuahua, Mexico

Mata Ortiz pottery from Chihuahua, Mexico

Both Pedro and Jacobo tell me that tourism has dropped substantially in Oaxaca in the last month our of fear about the clashes between the federal government and the striking teachers. While Oaxaca’s economy depends on tourism, the teachers have legitimate grievances that need to be addressed. It’s complicated!

Hand-beaded blouses from Puebla, Merry Foss artisan cooperative

Hand-beaded blouses from Puebla, Merry Foss artisan cooperative

Some artisans who have visas and have come to the U.S. to do business for years, are able to cross the border and try to make up for what is lost in the local economy. Instead of talking about building walls, United States leaders need to talk about building bridges.

Mexican doll collection, home of David and Barbara

Mexican doll collection, home of David and Barbara

In the meantime, it takes people like David and Barbara, Robin and Linda, and members of Los Amigos del Arte Popular de Mexico who keep the folk art traditions of Mexico in the forefront, who host artisans for private sales, who promote that Mexico has a rich artistic and cultural heritage that remains vibrant only through support and understanding.

Oaxaca clay nativity scene, private collection

Oaxaca clay nativity scene, private collection

If you personally or an organization you are involved with would like to host an artisan visit to the United States, please contact me. I can facilitate. This means a lot to people to keep their family traditions alive and income flowing.

Pacific Ocean overlook, sunny Southern California day

Pacific Ocean overlook, sunny Southern California day

I’m returning to Oaxaca next week. I’ve been traveling for over a month. This is a great interlude to visit with family and friends. I seem to be happy wherever I am these days! I hope you are contented, too.

Pond sunset, end to a perfect San Diego day

Pond sunset, end to a perfect San Diego day

 

Shop Mexico–The Artisan Sisters: Oaxaca Carved & Painted Wood Alebrijes

Now that I’m back in North Carolina, I am looking at my Oaxaca folk art collection of whimsical, carved wood and hand-painted alebrijes.  Wow, there are a lot of beautiful alebrijes from San Martin Tilcajete and San Antonio Arrazola, including some by famed Jacobo Angeles and his wife Maria.  It’s now time to sell as I prepare to spend more months each year in Mexico in smaller space.  I brought them here carefully, one by one, over the years with no damage.  I don’t want to risk it going the other way! So, here they are up for sale.  I will definitely consider all good offers, too.

If I don’t sell these here this week, I will list them on eBay.  So don’t hesitate!

1.  From master wood carvers Jacobo and Maria Angeles in San Martin Tilcajete, a carved and painted jaguar mask, $165.

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This is a stunning addition to any mask collection!

Jacobo and Maria Angeles are the most famed woodcarvers of San Martin Tilcajete.  They have exhibited worldwide, are in private collections and their work is impeccable.  They also operate Azucenas Zapoteca Restaurant and have a gallery on Macedonio Alcala in the historic center of Oaxaca.

2.  Flying Hummingbird #1 by Jacobo and Maria Angeles, San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca.  This one is hand-painted with all natural dyes — cochineal, nuts, moss. wing span 6″ and from beak to tail, 5″ long. $85 USD.

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3.  Flying Hummingbird #2 (below) by Jacobo and Maria Angeles, San Martin Tilcajete.  Magenta with blue and yellow accents.  Wing span 5″ and beak to tail 5-1/2″.  $60 USD.

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4.  Exquisite Lizard by Rocio Ramirez, Xoxocotlan, Oaxaca. Just look at that tail! This is one entire piece of copal wood, carefully carved and beautifully painted in perfect condition. 18″ long and 10″ wide, from tail to end of left claw!  Impressive.  $295 USD.

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5. Hector Lopez carved this rhinoceros in his home village of Arrazola about seven years ago.  I have had it as a prominent part of my collection ever since.  The painting detail is incredible and it is carved from a single piece of copal wood, except for the detachable tail and ears.  From tail to end of front horn, 17″ long.  Stands 8″ high.  $325 USD.

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6. And, finally, a wonderful Black and White Bear by famed Maria and Candida Jimenez Ojeda, San Martin Tilcajete, Oaxaca. 8″ long x 4″ high x 3″ wide.  Small and mighty.  The detail painting is stunningly Maria! $125 USD.

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Send me an email and please refer to item number and description when inquiring.  Price does not include shipping or insurance.  Please tell me if you want this, along with your mailing address and I will send you an invoice that includes shipping and insurance based on your location.

 

Shop Mexico: Week 3–Day of the Dead Extravaganza

The Artisan Sisters offer, on this Memorial Weekend Monday, unusual pieces by noted Oaxaca artisans who playfully render clay and wood into fanciful Day of the Dead figures.  Today’s line-up:  Josefina Aguilar, ceramic artist, Bertha Cruz, alebrijes painter, and Miguel Diaz.

1.  First,  we introduce you to The Happy Couple: Ready for a Stroll Around Town.  By famous Ocotlan de Morelos folk artist Josefina Aguilar. The glittery female Catrina rests on her parasol while balancing a cigarette holder in her other hand.  She stands tall at 11-1/2″ high x 5″ wide.  Her male companion is 13″ high x 4″ wide, complete with bow tie and top hat.  These are substantial figures, larger that what is typical.  Note: both heads rest on wire springs — the better to see you with, my dear.  Sold as a pair.  Item #5312012.2.  $265.  Day of the Dead is just around the corner!

    

3. Catrina Roja Negra. Bertha Cruz, an amazing alebrije painter from Arrazola, outdid herself on this figure.  Bertha began selling independently out of her home about four years ago. She is not represented in galleries. Her brush details are eensy teensy and exquisite. Her husband, Alfonso Castellanos Ibañez, does the carving but insists that she sign her name because the beauty is in the painting, he says.  She is quite collectible. 14″ high x 5″ wide. Item #5312012.3.  $225.

    

Alebrijes-Mexico, a German art resource, notes that “Bertha is a famous painter. Every single one of her alebrijes is a unique work of art. None of her sculptures matches any of the others. Each of her sculptures represents a three dimensional painting of the highest standard. She predominantly uses Zapotec motifs in subdued colors. She is without restriction one of the best artists in Mexico.”

4.  Donkey Playing Keyboard is a whimsical musician lady, she’s got the  rhythm, she’s got the beat. Carved copal wood and painted alebrije figure by Arrazola folk artist Miguel Diaz (signed).  9-7/8″ high x 3-1/2″ wide.  Item #5211012.4.  $45.

 

Don’t forget to contact us first by email  to see if the item you are interested in is still available.  We will send you an invoice after we calculate shipping costs based on your Zip Code.  Many thanks, Norma and Barbara, The Artisan Sisters.

Come see Oaxaca for yourself during Day of the Dead and attend our Photography Expedition, October 28-November 4.