Tag Archives: alebrijes

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.

Alebrijes4_21_13 Alebrijes4_21_13-2


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.

Alebrijes4_21_13-16 Alebrijes4_21_13-17

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.

Alebrijes4_21_13-18Alebrijes4_21_13-19 Alebrijes4_21_13-20

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.

Alebrijes4_21_13-4 Alebrijes4_21_13-5 Alebrijes4_21_13-6

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.

Alebrijes4_21_13-12Alebrijes4_21_13-14 Alebrijes4_21_13-13Alebrijes4_21_13-15


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.

Alebrijes4_21_13-8Alebrijes4_21_13-9 Alebrijes4_21_13-11

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.


Shop Mexico: Week 2 — Alebrijes + Animales

We are offering a weekly listing of handmade textiles, alebrijes, clothing, jewelry and other Mexican collectibles from Shop Mexico: The Artisan Sisters.

This week we feature hand-carved copal wood alebrijes, whimsical Oaxaca figures that are painstakingly hand-painted, plus a sweet Chiapas alligator made of hand-felted and embroidered wool.

Strike Up the Band.  3-figures, each approx, 6″ high x 2-1/4″ wide. $115. Signed by San Martin Tilcajete artist Pablo Vasquez Matias. Item #5212012.1 These whimsical animal musicians are playing cymbals, drums and saxophone.  Music is an essential part of Oaxaca village life, present at every festive occasion.  Toombalah. Toot.


El Nahual.  SOLD.  Approx. 5-3/4″ high x 5″ wide. $35. Item #5212012.2.  Signed by San Martin Tilcajete artist Inocencio Vasquez. The Nahual is an important part of Mesoamerican folk religion, a human with magical powers who can turn him/herself into an animal. This yellow nahual has horsehair whiskers and tail, with a sweet uplifted human face.  The three small brown spots are copal sap, which in no way detracts.  Copal sap is used for ritual incense in Oaxaca.  Price plus shipping and handling depending upon your location.


Alligator.  SOLD.  This wool felted character comes from Chiapas, Mexico, where alligators and crocodiles swim in wide, muddy rivers.  The felt is handmade from locally sheared wool and stuffed, then sewn and embellished by hand.  Approx. 14″ long x 5″ wide. $24. Item #5212012.3.

Shipping and handling for our items is additional.  Please send us your ZIP code and we will send you the cost to ship. Please contact me before sending your PayPal payment to be sure the item you want is available!

The Artisan Sisters are Norma Hawthorne and Barbara Beerstein.  Sisters in real life, we love Mexico, love to travel together, and shop to support artists and artisans.  We usually come home with much more than what we need.

That is to your advantage!  Our prices our reasonable.  We ship fast.  We have already made the purchase, paying the artist what they have asked for without bargaining.  We believe in compensating people fairly for the beauty they create.

Week 1: Shop Mexico: The Artisan Sisters, May 14, 2012

Cows, Pigs, Calaveras: Carved Wood Figures of Placido Santiago Cruz

This week I was in Oaxaca city for two days visiting with silversmiths Brigitte Huet and Ivan Campant!  I went with them to present their work at Susanna Trilling’s Seasons of My Heart Cooking School in San Lorenzo Cacaotepec.  This mecca of the culinary arts is located about 40 minutes from the city in the lush countryside where farmers continue to plow their fields with wood plows harnessed to hefty oxen.  (This is also the same village where Irma Paula Garcia Blanco from Atzompa gets her black clay.)

Here I met Placido Santiago Cruz who was also invited to show his work to the class participants.  It is a blessing to independent local artists and artisans to be able to do this because there are limited opportunities to meet a group of visitors who may be interested in collecting their work.

Señor Santiago Cruz is one of the earliest and original folk artists from the village of La Union Tejalapam. There is joy, color and humor in his copal wood figures that capture the essential commentary of pueblo life.  His style is indicative of alebrijes as they were first carved, much different from the highly stylized and ornamental figures of most carvers today.  His repertoire includes barnyard animals such as cows, pigs, horses and goats, as well as Nativity scenes, and the Virgin of Guadalupe praying over a fallen angel. Señor Santiago Cruz does the carving and his wife, Señora Alfonsa Cruz López, finishes each piece by sanding it smooth and then painting it. This is a team effort between husband and wife that is typical in small, independent carving families in this village as well as in Arrazola and San Martin Tilcajete.

Señor Santiago Cruz has carved for 40 years.  He began carving at the side of an older brother who taught him how to work with the machete, knife, and the copal wood that had been softened in water to make it more malleable.  Over the years, he has gained recognition as one of the outstanding carvers of the region.   His work is featured in Arden Rothstein’s bible, Oaxaca Folk Art. He is in collected by Henry Wegeman and Rosa Blum, owners of Amate Books on Macedonio Alcala, and his work is offered for sale in El Nahual Gallery on Av. 5 de Mayo in Oaxaca City.

Prices are incredibly reasonable for these lovely pieces that are quintessentially Oaxaca. Owls are 100 pesos. The small animal heads, perfect for wall adornment, are 150 pesos. Animal musicians are 200 pesos. The Virgin of Guadalupe is 350 pesos as is the Calavera (whimsical skeleton) with pineapple head-dress. The entire nativity scene is 2,000 pesos and it includes 10 pieces. As of this writing, the exchange rate is about 13.5 pesos to the dollar.  Great folk art is still a bargain in Oaxaca!

If you want to ride out to La Union to visit el maestro (about a 50 minute taxi ride from the city), call ahead and make an appointment. Connecting with the artist directly is an extraordinary experience.  And the artisans here depend upon selling their carved wood figures as their primary source of cash income, since La Union is not a farming community. Placido Santiago Cruz, La Union Tejalapam, Etla, Oaxaca, cellular 044 951 106 0983.