Tag Archives: Bertha Cruz

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.


Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Eency, Teensy Oaxaca Dragon

Tiny Dragon with a Big Heart

Well, maybe not SO eency.  She is only 4-1/2″ tall, this hand-carved and painted Dragon Miss (too frivolous to be a Dragon Lady).  She actually looks more like a teenager dressed for the junior prom (do they still do that?) or a second date, all prettied up in her floral print, dressed to impress wouldn’t you say?  I am not beyond using anthropomorphism to give her human attributions!

When I look at her I just have to smile at the whimsy by which she was created at the hand of talented young Arrazola alebrije painter Bertha Cruz.  (The carving is done by Bertha’s husband.)  Bertha has breathed life into this little gal.  Who would ever think of marrying yellow marigold flowers, polka dots, a flame-red tongue and zebra-stripes on a dragon?  Only a Zapotec with a creative and fanciful mind.  She says to me, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Eeency, teency, teenage dancing dragon

I was working on her today when WordPress sends me a tickler: write about something SMALL.  It was perfect timing.

Recently, my little dragon’s ears, fore-wings and one of her back wings dislodged and I needed to do some repair work.  Using a teeny weeny container of Loctite Super Glue (Control Gel) that measures 3-3/4″ tall (but VERY powerful — it will glue your skin together if you aren’t careful), I put drops of the clear stuff into the eency holes that serve as orifices for the small pointed ends of the wood carved and painted pieces.  Then, I pressed the pointy ends into the holes and counted to twenty.  Instantly terminado (finished).  She is as good as new.

I love this piece.  It reminds me of the joy and creativity of Oaxacaquenos and the colors of the city that I love so much.

In Search of Bertha Cruz, Arrazola, Oaxaca: Poinsettias on the Dragon

Bertha Cruz is a young, talented painter of alebrijes.  She has been a featured artist in Jacobo Angeles’ gallery in San Martin Tilcajete and the prices on her larger pieces (if you can find them) can command up to $500 USD or even more!  Bertha’s husband does the carving of the the copal wood and she does the very fine and detailed painting using miniscule brushes dipped carefully into tiny paint pots.  My sister and I found her home a few years ago because we wanted to support her directly.

Portrait of Bertha Cruz

Bertha became a mother almost two years ago and with her small daughter tugging at her skirts it’s been harder to consistently produce a large body of work.  Bertha tells me that she no longer exhibits at galleries in Oaxaca city because she prefers to be paid directly and avoid the commissions.  People know her work now and make the 30 minute trip to Arrazola (usually by taxi) to see her.  Directions are sketchy and you just have to follow your nose.  She has no telephone number and the street address is illusive.  If you know a little Spanish that doesn’t hurt, since once you are in town you can ask anyone where is the house of Bertha Cruz and they will tell you.

El Dragon by Bertha Cruz, Arrazola, Oaxaca

How on earth did I get this dragon home? you might ask.  Yes, I succumbed and bought it!  That body is carved from one entire piece of copal wood and then intricately painted.  I wrapped and wrapped with bubble and foam, and then wrapped again, then tucked it between the folds and layers of clothing in my suitcase.

Dragon Wings Detail -- Bertha Cruz, Arrazola, Oaxaca

You can see some of the Zapotec design detailing on the leg in the foreground and on the tail.  Bertha was seeing Noche Buena flowers in bloom during this season and replicated them on the tail.  We know this flower as poinsettia.

A Bertha Cruz Bear Eating Watermelon

You can catch a taxi close to the Zocalo (I usually hail it at the corner of Fiallo and Hidalgo).  The cost is usually 100 to 120 pesos per hour.  The round trip will take about an hour, so you can figure the total cost by how much time you want to spend in Arrazola.

Directions:  Go into Arrazola and at the Community Collective Gallery turn right.  Turn left at the first street.  Go up the hill and turn left at the first (next) street.  Bertha’s house will be the first one on the left past the corner.  The gate is bamboo and there is a wagon wheel decorating the front fence.  (Sorry I can’t give you better directions.)  You will have to take your chances that she will be home.  When we arrived she wasn’t there.  Disappointment set in.  We wandered a few other shops (as soon as they saw us coming, the prices shot up. I should have removed my silver bracelet.)  Then we returned about 30 minutes later to discover that Bertha had returned.

Unpainted lizards, Bertha Cruz, Arrazola, Oaxaca

The work room is piled with semi-completed pieces.  Ears, tongues, tails are unattached to their animalitos.  If you see a body you want, Bertha knows which parts belong to whom.  Lizards, bears, armadillos, skulls, and dragons peer down at you from shelves and up at you from the floor.  The table is covered with larger pieces.  The workshop is part of Bertha’s home, so don’t be surprised to see the bedroom door ajar.  Most importantly, don’t bargain!  When you buy directly from her, the prices are incredibly reasonable for what you are taking home.  I have written another article about how to pack and carry alebrijes yourself if you don’t want to pay for shipping.  Disfruta mucho.

Bertha's Vision: Bear and Goat

Holiday Gift Ideas From Oaxaca: Alebrijes for Sale

Blue Lizard by Arrazola carver Bertha Cruz is 10″long and 10″ wide at the claws.  It is $135 plus shipping.

The Armadillo is also by Bertha Cruz.  It is 8″ long, 4-1/2″ high and the tail is 12″ long.  This is carved from one piece of copal wood.  $240 plus shipping.

Bear is by Jacobo Angeles, one of the most famous carvers from San Martin Tilcajete.  It is painted with all natural dyes and has been in my personal collection.  It is 9″ long and 5″ high.  $240 plus shipping.

SOLD Angel is by Alberto Jimenez Ojeda, another well-known carver from San Martin Tilcajete.  She is 10″ tall by 5-1/2″ wide. $135 plus shipping.

Husband and Wife Devils are Day of the Dead primitives carved and painted in the village of  La Union.  Unsigned, they are $90 for the pair, plus shipping.

Handwoven wool and silk shoulder bag by Tito Mendoza, Teotitlan del Valle, 8″ square, $125, plus shipping.

Please let me know which piece(s) you are interested in and where you live and I will quote you a shipping cost.  To expedite, I will invoice by PayPal.