Tag Archives: art glass

Oaxaca Art Glass Studio Tour: Recycled Beauty Makeover

It’s definitely ugly out there at the industrial park in Magdalena Apasco Etla, Oaxaca, where the experimental glass studio Xaquixe is located. A mound of empty bottles — clear, brown and green — sits at the far end of the property, waiting to be broken up, melted and shaped.

Xaquixe art glass goblets in various sizes, colors

Xaquixe art glass drinking vessels in various sizes, colors, imperfect beauty

There’s a two-story metal silo where organic waste cooks in an experimental process to produce gases that can be used to fuel the furnaces. Rusted metal parts sit to the side waiting for repurposing.

Experiments in glass and creating fuel from organic waste

Experiments in glass and creating fuel from organic waste

This is also a place of beauty, literally and metaphorically. There is always a new project under construction to develop better fuel-efficient ways to produce gorgeous art glass in a socially and environmentally conscious way. Many call this sustainable development.

 

Making recycled glass with discarded cooking oil that is converted to heat is how experiment takes on new meaning.  Xaquixe founders Christopher Thornton and Salime Harp Cruces are dedicated to continuing process improvement and finding a more efficient, cheaper fuel source.

Solar might be the answer, but they don’t want to use photovoltaic panels since these can’t easily be recycled at the end of their useful life, says our tour guide Salvador Pulido Arroyo as he points to a shiny metal rotating array planted close-by.

Salvador, who is from Michoacan and has a degree in industrial design from IBERO, explains (in perfect English) that Xaquixe is experimenting with concave panels of aluminum that can absorb the sun’s energy and convert it differently. Sometimes experiments like this succeed. Often they fail. They always take an investment of money, time and creativity.

 

What keeps Xaquixe going strong is its commitment to innovation and design. It is the only glass studio in southern Mexico and serves as a role model for start-ups world-wide who want to adopt similar production strategies.

Christian Thornton explains Francisco Toledo art glass project to visitors

I signed up, along with nine other people, for this tour with Mariana Rivera, the delightful manager of the Xaquixe-Christian Thornton Gallery on 5 de Mayo (in the first block next to Santo Domingo Church), between Constitucion and Abasolo.  Mariana organizes these visits to the factory periodically as a way to educate people.

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Animal skull with glass eye sits atop furnace

Xaquixe is devoted to education. As part of their factory remodeling they are creating an educational center where business and conservation practices can be learned as part of a visiting artists residency program.

In addition to making beautiful mouth blown and molded glass vessels for drinking and containing our favorite local liquid (mezcal), Christian works with Mexican painter, sculptor and graphic artist Francisco Toledo to build major one-of-a-kind installations.

 

Today, Christian was making wax molds to form a Toledo commission for a private client. He explained that he will spoon the molten glass into the mold and use the lost wax casting technique. See the wax chicken feet, below?

 

One benefit of going on the tour this week was to enjoy a big discount on seconds. There were lots to choose from. If you go out to the factory independently, from time to time you might also find seconds to buy. (Stop by and ask Mariana when the next tour is scheduled. It’s 300 pesos per person.)

 

Of course, it’s much easier to get to the gallery in the city where you will find drinking and mezcal glasses, big beautiful blown glass jars, pitchers, vases, dishes and sculpture in an array of magical colors — all made from broken glass shards melted and reformed.

Mariana Rivera leads the tour from gallery to factory

Mariana Rivera leads the tour from gallery to factory

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the Zocalo, Sunday in Mexico City

MexCityPeacocks_StrLife-138Sunday is family day in Mexico. Most people work a long six-day week often until eight or nine at night, so this is the only time they have together for an entire day. On this particular Sunday, the Zocalo is filled with families flying kites across the great expanse that looks as huge as Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

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I love to stay in the historic center of Mexico City to walk the cobbled streets, take in the murals and enjoy the street life. There is a deep sense of ancient history here reflecting Aztec roots. The Templo Mayor is nearby with an impressive archeological dig going on to uncover more of Tenochtitlan.

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For art glass lovers, two buildings boast art nouveau glass domed ceilings. The central atrium of the upscale department store Palacio de Hierro has a fine example. The other adorns the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico. The hotel is at the corner of the Zocalo (entrance on Av. 16 de Septiembre) and the store is a block away.

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On this particular Sunday, the last before Easter vacation ends and Mexican school children must return to the classroom, we are approached by youngsters needing to complete their school assignments: interview a foreigner who speaks English and record the interview. It is almost dusk. Time is running out. Parents are at hand with tablets and hand-held devices to help get this done.

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We finish off the Zocalo stroll at the rooftop restaurant of Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico with a mango mezcal margarita rimmed with worm salt and a magnificent Zocalo view as the sun sets.

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Then, it’s off to Calle Isabel la Catolica #30 for a grand finale dinner at Azul Historico.

Be sure to catch the indigenous clothing gallery, Remigio, on the second floor of Isabel la Catolica #30 featuring hand-woven garments with natural dyes.  Right next door, avant clothing designer Carla Fernandez offers hand-carved wood bracelets from molinillo parts. Both shops close at 6 p.m. on Sunday, 8 p.m. other nights.

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In the same building, behind the central stairway, is a mural by artist Manuel Rodriguez Lozano called the Holocaust — not to be missed!

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Lots to do in just a few square blocks.

Some of the highlights of our Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo Art History Tour of Mexico City. Contact me if you want to join in winter/spring 2015-2016. MexCityPeacocks_StrLife-136

 

Studio Xaquixe: Recycled Art Glass Combines Beauty with Environmental Responsibility

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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, info@xaquixe.com