Archive for ‘Artists’

January 13, 2010

The Lorenzo Family

Last weekend we visited Nicolas Lorenzo whose family creates these wonderful retablos. We’ll be having more about this family  and their wonderful naive retablos.  You’ll find all of these and more on the site the week of January 20th.

This family is from the state of Guerrero Mexico, a small village in the rio balsa area where most of the amate style painters live.  Their work is in the style of the amate paintings that you see on bark paper but these are painted on masonite and laquered afterwards.  Most depict dances, village scenes, saints, animals performing human acts, popular figures such as luchador wrestlers and skeletons along with the supernatural. They are wonderful examples of naive folk art at it’s best – by untrained artists, using materials that are found nearby.  The entire family, including the youngest of children paint from an early age.

Here are a few close-ups

© 2010 Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art

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February 14, 2009

Artist Studio Specials

This week we made a visit
To the painting taller of Aron and Oscar.
They paint our custom retablos
As well as colonial style and kitschy
Pieces on wood, tin and old windows and doors.
aron

Below, are a few of the pieces
That they have asked us to sell for them.
They will be sold at a special artist studio price
And as you order them, they will ship 
From here in Mexico, allow 2-3 weeks
For delivery.  
You’ll find these in our ‘New Arrivals
On our website – Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art 

These unique wood crosses 
Are atop wood stands which are
Made from old wood beams
Some have glass in front of saints images
Others, allegorical crosses atop retablo paintings
These are some of the more unique crosses
We have come across in a long time
And hope you enjoy them!

p1030830_resized           p1030828_resized

p1030827_resized  p1030825_resized

p1030823_resized  p1030822_resized

p1030820_resized  Wood cross over retablo

Along with these unique pieces
Are new talavera from the artist studi0 In Guanajuato. This talavera catrina plate will be sold from the artist studio only & will ship up to the states when your order is placed and then out to you.

 

Talavera Catrina Plate

Talavera Catrina Plate

January 11, 2009

Where All Those Cantera Stone Carvings Come From

Many of the carved Cantera stone figures
Architectural details, columns and canales,
Saints, angels and fountains
Come from a small town
In the Queretaro mountains
Adjacent and a few kilometers away
From the town of Pedro Escobedo,
In a town named Escolasticas.
A rose amidst simple round column shapes, Escolastica, Cantera

John had gone there with his boys
Two Christmases ago and wanted to go back.
We hopped in the car with Richard & Chris,
And were off to see if we could find
This remote town on our own.

Escolastica lies in the hills,
About an hour outside of Queretaro.
The highways are good and it’s easy going
Until you get to Pedro Escobedo
Where you know you have to turn.

The highway makes a detour
To main street, where you can buy
Tacos, chicken, baskets, groceries
Visit with your neighbors, buy eggs,
Get your car washed or find a taxi.
But there isn’t one sign for the road to Escolastica

Studio at Escolasticas

About four blocks down,
I unroll my window
Ask a man on the street
If he knows the road to Escolastica.
‘Hijole’ he says (like oh God!)
He motions around in a circle
Tells us to go left, then left, then straight
And keep going.
Which of course leads us exactly back
To where we were.

We go left, where there is a line up of taxis
We ask the lead driver if he knows the route.
He tells us to go left, then left and straight
Todo direcho – keep going straight
And you’ll get there.
Wall insert of a lion, Escolasticas, Cantera
It looks like a dead end to nowhere
So we head back up the highway road
Thinking once we get out of town
There will be a sign.
As we leave town, we realize the map says
That the road is not outside of town
But somewhere in the middle.
We turn around again and John
Stops a gas truck to ask a third time.
The driver tells us, “go past the light, three streets
Turn left and keep going.
You’ll see signs for la Lira
Then Escolastica.”

This works, but it doesn’t look right
A cobblestone road, barely rideable
Past old buildings that look like
Abandoned stone jails.
But soon there is a sign for la Lira,
A town, and down a little street
That doesn’t seem like it can go anywhere
Then across the ‘highway’
Really, a small two lane paved road
Which leads us 7 km more into Escolastica.
You know you are there
When you start seeing things like the carvings below
And when a car goes by, or the wind blows
It picks up all the stone dust and blows it around
Drying out your face and throat.

Griffin figure, Escolasticas, Cantera

As we arrive, there is a long stretch of nothing but carvings
Then a long stretch of town, which is surprisingly large
Followed by a stretch of countryside
With a few studios, carvings behind wire fences,
Then a long stretch of big workshops
Where they cut the large pieces
With saws that have teeth that are an inch and a half long
Whose cuttings, mixed with water hit the wall beyond
Making an image the shape of the Virgin of Guadalupe
Large saw with carbide 'dientes' Teeth, Escolasticas, Cantera

There are carvings of every imaginable shape and style,
Angels, virgins, saints, monsters, soldiers and mermaids
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And architectural features and forms
Canales that look like animals, along with simple plain ones
You can imagine water flowing from their mouths

Jaguar canales, Escolastica, Cantera
Sitting atop blocks and cylinders of stone,
with carved pillars at top

Men fighting beasts
Where would one put something like this?

Roman soldier and the minataur, Escolastica, Cantera

Angels of all kinds

Angel holding flowers, Escolastica, Cantera

In the midst of what appears to be a dirty, dusty, unkempt, disorderly
Group of workshops, you’ll find inside
A very neatly arranged tool bench

Tools of the trade, hand carving tools, Escolastica, Cantera

A workspace worthy of the piece they are working on,
A large round rose that will go in the top of a church
Carving a rose, Escolastica, Cantera

Next to the calendar girl that normally adorns the workshop wall
But there are no walls in these workshops
So she is bound to the telephone pole

Every shop has one of these, or something similar, Escolastica, Cantera

Roman, Christian soldiers on chariots
Are surrounded by birds and fountains
And we all started singing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’

Roman soldier in a chariot, Escolastica, Cantera

A rustic hacienda style,
Low palapa roof home
Sits at the back of one workshop
Guarded by a life size lion
Shaded by a large tree
In a garden of cactus.

Click on the photo below
to view the slideshow

Shady studio with large lion, Escolasticas, Cantera

Go to: Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art

 

© All rights reserved, 2009, Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art

September 25, 2007

Mexico City Markets & Masks

Whether you like angels, devils, saints, the grotesque, you will find it in

the upcoming slideshow of Mexican Markets & a fantastic mask shop.

Slideshow to come later this week.

© All rights reserved, September 2007, Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art

September 6, 2007

Alfredo Vilchis – Retablo Artist

Rincon de los Milagros

Alfredo Vilchis in his studio, Mexico City, 2007

Rincon de los milagros — corner of miracles, the street & neighborhood that Alfredo lives, where he paints retablos depicting the history of Mexico, people’s dreams, wishes, troubles, pain, miracles and stories of great heart.

We entered Alfredo’s home through the living room and kitchen downstairs and were brought right in to meet the whole family. We walked up the tiny winding staircase, covered in retablos and ex-votos to the second floor to his bedroom

and studio.

Upon reacing the top of the stairway, we entered a rich blue room, his bedroom, where he sat us down next to him on the bed and told us the stories of his family, his faith, the saints who keep his work alive. Alfredo is a lively man, full of himself, and proud of the work he has been doing for the last 23 years, bringing history and people’s stories to painted form while keeping the tradition of retablo and ex-Voto making alive.

The bedroom opens into his studio, rich in iconography, walls to

ceiling covered with masks, milagros, parts of doll’s bodies, pictures, little statues and books – all for inspiration and meaning.

Brushes, old boxes with paint peeling, drawers full of supplies, drawings everywhere you turn, his image painted, looking out at you, the signature of this mustached man, a saint, an angel, a devil.

It is a dream studio full of light, white curtains blowing, simple, yet full of that which occupies his mind.

I asked Alfredo how he worked and he brought out a pencil drawing

of a retablo he had painted to show the basic layout – simple and not very detailed. From this he paints the final piece in oil on sheet metal called lamina.

Alfredo, his son Hugo and myself

Around every corner, behind every shelf are the images that hold his life and his work.

The shelf on the left is a wooden niche full of old rolled up tubes of paint, mixed with milagros and & saints in front of the niche to protect

and bless that which has brought him his livelihood and his fame.

Altars, shrines, mementos

Hugo, Alfredo’s eldest son, laying out retablos that they call ‘inventos’ and are sold in the market, based on stories that they have read about in newspapers and magazines.

Alfredo, self portrait, angle with flowers, below, Alfredo

with death on a bicycle.

Love of Mexico, it’s foils and follies and luchadors. This is

one of a series of retablos, commemorating the lucha phenomenom, his family painted in to the bleachers.

Alfredo explaining a shadow box niche that was hung in his show in

France.

While in France at a show of his work, he became enamored with

the work of Velazquez, and has painted a series of the royal family

each one with him as the artist painting

Alfredo in jeans & green shirt & as a saint surrounded by his

paintbrushes, the working altar

Retablo of a bus full of people, the Virgin watching over and

Mexico city & the Volcanos to the south in the distance.

Through his love of bull fights, he has begun a series of retablos depicting bullfighting – the inspiration for another possible book of his work.

Hugo Vilchis – with two of his retablos

Luis Vilchis with recent retablos of gay lovers

Daniele, so serious throughout our visit

The artist desk

Shadow box of milagros and small linear retablo

Wall of milagros in tin, clay, doll parts, wood

Alfredo describing a simple retablo drawn by his grandson Miguel — the story of the death of his little brother at one month

Artist’s view

Alfredo with Manuel holding drawings of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Manuel’s drawing is based on the drawing of Alfredo

Alfredo’s Virgin on the left, Manuel’s, right

Manuel, Alfredo & his grandaughter

Daniel, Alfredo, Hugo & Luis Vilchis

The blue bedroom. On the left is a retablo of all of Alfredo’s saints, a

small shelf with miniature figures, paintings & retablos & a cross filled with

drawings and milagros, a photo of his mother beneath it.

Views of retablos on the narrow stairway, filled with retablos that Alfredohas painted over the years, retablos & Ex-votos that are

in his two books.

Rincon de los milagros

© All rights reserved, September 2007, Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art

June 5, 2007

Apaseo – Wood Carving Town

Wood carvers of Apaseo June 2007

Apaseo is a small working town, mostly agricultural, but hosts a group of wood workers that carve mostly saints, angels, Jesus figures, along with carnival horses, nativities, and various other works of art. Much of the work is life size, and pieces finished in a surprisingly quick time – a day or two.

Most of the work is sold just outside of town along the highway corridor in shops like these, someone’s home up above with the lower floors dedicated in some cases to carving, but most cases, a rustic showroom.

As we walked into the house, under the covered porch, was this fatastic table base of three large horse heads, complete with gasoline cans, tools, a bench in the general disorder of things.

San Judas Tadeo, patron saint of lost causes

The family altar, mixed in with carvings, empty coke bottles, saints, a carved nativity and Virgin of Guadalupe carved out of a half log.

On the back showroom wall were carvings of small statues, carnival horses, and Don Quixote.

Along the front porchwall is an antique carving of Santiago Matamoros

Juan Araiza, carver and shop keeper

Our friend Aron and myself in an angled room heaped with saints, angels and small animal carvings.

Jesus, saints, angels, and the trademark San Pascual, patron saint of cooking, carved in a goofy way with a large bulbous nose

San Miguel

This was one of my favorite rooms, almost an altar lain flat on the floor with many Jesus figures waiting for the cross, San Miguel, the Virgin of Gudalupe, animals and an ornately carved table which is typical of the furniture made here.

Don Quixote reading a book

The first workshop we visited, where the whole family, even the young women were carving saints.

She has been carving since she was 13 years old, now a viable worker in the family business.

The tools are placed and pounded with the palm of the hand

The younger generation…

Entering the family workshop – Saint Francis lying on a block of wood, great shadows and light.

San Francisco, tools, coffee and cookies.

Unfinished work

The elder generation, carving in the entrance to the home

Herrimientos – tools of the trade

Another workshop. Except for the mother who was cooking, the entire family was carving in the outdoor kitchen, sitting on the floor or on short stumps.

Virgin Mary’s, carnival horses and a thousand chips of wood

San Judas Tadeo in the foreground

The grandfather, resting next to a life size Virgin of guadalupe, with the outdoor grill & washbucket against the back wall.

Across the street, a carver of musicians.

San Charbel, first saint of Lebanon, and a basic carving, unfinished of the Virgin of Guadalupe

Tool storage, photos of saints

Saint carved into a burl

Aron, goofing

The last workshop, where the carvings are larger than life size. This carving is of the Virgin Mary on the moon with a snake.

© All rights reserved, April 2006, Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art

January 15, 2007

The City of Guanajuato

Guanajuato, and the museo Jose Chavez Morado and Olga Costa

More to come

Museo Jose Chavez Morado & Olga Costa

© All rights reserved, April 2006, Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art

November 4, 2006

Dia de los Muertos Oaxaca

Day of the Dead Photo Journal – some of our favorite pictures
Watch for updates and more pictures between now and November 2.

Copyright October 2006, Dos Mujeres Mexicna Folk Art
© All rights reserved, April 2006, Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art

September 24, 2006

Amate Papermaking

The art of papermaking in Mexico dates back to pre-columbian times. In the early 1900’s it was thought that papermaking had died out. In fact, no one outside of Mexico had recorded seeing amate made since the 1600’s until Frederick Starr, an anthropologist, while searching for traditional Indians in east-central Mexico found evidence of papermaking & its uses.

 

The Tepehua, Nahuas & Otomi Indians made and used paper in their religious rituals, and as a means of recording information. Starr was shown paper which was made from the inner bark of local trees (ficus/mulberry) & witnessed the women pounding the bark fibers into paper. He also discovered that there were small statuettes made of this paper which he was told were used in cultural & religious rites by village Shaman.

Hundreds of paper figure designs, as well as paper dolls made by the village shamans representing every type of spirit, person, animal, plant were being created for these rituals. The concepts represented by these paper cuttings have existed since & been used in rituals since pre-columbian times. The word amate means ‘paper’ in the Nahuatl language.

Amate use during the 16th Century & Spanish Conquest:

During the time of Cortez & Spanish conquest, paper was respected as a sacred substance & used for commerce and recording of information, much the way we use paper today.

P8110067.JPGThe Codex Mendoza an ancient amate document which is still in existence, shows there were 42 towns or villages where the 480,000 pieces of amate paper was made during a one year period – an enormous amount, considering the time. Celebrations, dreams & spirit matter, genealogy, wars, disease, divination, cures, rulers, plants/animals & details of cultural life were recorded on this paper.

Besides being used to keep records & information, amate was used in Codices (books made of long sheets in accordian fold, with figures & characters to represent data & information). Due to the nature of its organic matter, very few of these documents & ritual pieces exist today.

The elders & spiritual leaders were responsible for the safekeeping of this information & knew how to read them. According to Alan Sandstrom in his book Traditional Papermaking and Paper Cult Figures of Mexico “Virtually every Aztec rite included the adorning of statues of sacred objects with paper…..these paper adornments were cut to proper shape & often dyed & decorated to correspond to symbolic colors of a particular deity.”

Now, as in early times, amate paper is commercially traded and is a main income source for the Otomí people. This paper has been sold mainly to artists in the state of Guerrero, who paint the colorful paintings that are sold throughout outdoor markets in Mexico.

For the last 30 years

artists have been painting historias of village life in colorful images representing spiritual & cultural village life. The scenes depict births, deaths, marriages, planting & harvest, fiestas, celebrations, as well as simple everyday chores such as washing laundry in the river, carrying water, wars & skirmishes.

Early amate paintings were painted in simple, natural colors & dyes, using animal hair & plant fiber brushes. As modern paints & materials have become available, artists began using the wide array of acrylic & neon colors currently available.

Machine stamping is quite common these days in the amates that you see in outdoor markets throughout Mexico. They are sold to vendors who then hand paint in the pre-stamped design, much the way we use paint by number kits. It is unusual in these marketplaces to find unique hand drawn & painted Amates.

Amate Paper used in Religious Rituals -Spirit Figures

The Otomí people create elaborate & artful designs from the bark paper they create. These cut out paper figures are used in elaborate rituals performed by the village shaman. Being animistic in nature, they attribute these spiritual (god-like) energies, to village & world events, health, fertility, weather, harvest etc..

The designs of these spirit representations include gods, saints, animal companion spirits, malevolent spirits, human, animal & plant spirits. These spirits inhabit the sky, earth, and the underworld. Each spirit realm is important and is recognized fully in ritual events.

Three day rituals are held to cleanse & align the spirit world in households & communities of the Otomí. On day one, the malevolent spirits have center stage. Although these spirits represent negative energies, disease, ill will etc. they are considered as important as the good spirits & are recognized, fed & honored in the initial phase of a 3 day ritual, as well as in daily life. After the spirits are nourished,the shaman gathers the paper spirit representations & gives them to a runner who runs miles out of the village to bury the spirits beneath the soil, appeased.

The Shaman then cuts a new set of spirits representing the gods, saints, animals & plants. There could be over 25 or more of these, each hand cut & placed on the altar (usually a dirt floor). Singing, dancing, food, flowers, water and other offerings are made to these living spirits to ensure the desired outcome of the ritual.

To this day, there is an annual community ritual at the end of each year to cleanse the community & bring good energy for the coming year. There are also rituals throughout the year for rain, health, crop production & harvest, as well as other life events & activities.

Otomi Amate Spirit Art

While the colorful amate paintings are common throughout Mexico, the spirit figure amate by the Otomí as seen in our store are less common & are rarely found outside of the Otomí villages.

Each figure represents an aspect of life and energy that must be respected in order to live a life rich in spirituality & ritual. In the villages, entire families are involved in papermaking, as well as using the paper in artistic ways to bring life to the unseen energies around us.

What makes these Otomí pieces unique for your Mexican Folk Art Collection, are the ritual & sacred practices that are still being practiced in its indiginous, traditional forms.

We’ve yet to see, as the modern world encroaches into the lives of these people, how it will change the ritual and artistic aspects of the culture.

THE PROCESS:

Village members work in outdoor courtyards.The strips of bark are

criss-crossed over sheets of plywood, then gently pressed with a porous

stone to mash the strands together to make paper .

The bark is peeled in strips, boiled with lye & ash to soften the bark. Natural or synthetic dyes are addedto this process

Brother, sister and entire families workside by side, pounding the wet strips into paper, creating an artistic piece.

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Along with papermaking, the women of the village also embroider and bead intricate designs on their clothing which represents the village & family story.

 

 

 

© All rights reserved, August, 2002, Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art

September 23, 2006

Trees of Life, Izucar de Matamoros


To get there you pass through farmlands, agave fields and eventually into the sleepy town of Izucar de Matamoros, south- west of the city of Puebla. Like many Mexican towns, it centers around a main plaza or zocolo that features a church, government buildings, merchants and restaurants. It is not a pretty town, like the colonial or beach towns, and it is made up of typical barrios with low square concrete houses and is home to some of the most outstanding folk artists of Mexico whose roots go back to the 1800’s.


Izucar de Matamoros is one of three main towns that are renowned for the trees of life that come out of Mexico. It is not a shopping town, and you won’t find the work in the few shops that surround the zocolo, nor will you find them in the surrounding streets. You would not travel to Izucar for the romantic Mexican Vacation, the great hotels the food or the beauty, but if you collect trees of life, it is a town you will want to visit.  

The artists from Izucar create trees of life candelabras, incense burners, tree of life figures, ornaments and a wide variety of work that relates to traditional holidays, birthdays, el dia de los muertos and some just for fun.


The Flores and Castillo families are the main families that are continuing the work which has it’s roots in the tradition since the 1800’s. Francisco Flores told us that his father’s trees were originally used as a gift from the godparents to a bride and groom at the wedding. The tree symbolized prosperity, health, fertility and hope and blessing for the new couple.

Still using the molds and paints that were used by his father in the early 1900’s, he continues the family tradition, started by his father Aurelio, by using the old style molds and painting with aniline dyes which creates an effect of a wash over white. His repertoire includes trees with religious figures dia de los muertos pieces, candelabras and incense burners. More than any other artist of this area, he continues to work keeping the very traditinal styles alive.

Isabel, Heriberto and Alfonso Castillo are renowned throughout the Mexican folk art world, and are all widely collected. These artists began working with their mother as young children. The work of Isabel and Heriberto is bright, imaginative and painted in acrylic/polychromatic style. They use a combination of old molds and their own creations. Alfonso, who has won many awards, and is celebrated as one of the ‘great masters’ in the Banamex Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art book. His work is unique and earthy and intricately painted in natural dyes. He commands collectors pricing, which is well deserved, for the beauty and intricacy of his work.

Isabel has traveled widely, including to the USA for shows, exhibitions and to teach. She tells us that her grandmother began making arbol de vidas 125 years ago. She says her mother began the tradition in Izucar, but we have heard from Francisco Flores that his father was the first. Whatever the case, there is long standing community pride in the history of the tree of life tradition in Izucar de Matamoros.  

Like many Mexican Folk Artists we know, the whole house & courtyard are utilized in the making of their craft. On our last visit, her children had taken over the molding, firing and dipping process. Isabel and her husband Gustavo were painting, selling and constructing new living space. Isabel is a very straightforward, no-nonsense person with a great sense of humor and great pride in the century-old tradition that she carries on.

The photos below follow the process that Isabel uses to make her creations.


The ‘clay’ is dried in chunks and is stored in large baskets in the upstairs of the studio. They are moistened by soaking, then kneading the clay into shape on her concrete work table.

Isabel works with the television going in the background, alongside rubber dinosaurs, toys of her grandchildren and her materials.  

This little bird is molded into shape very quickly.


With her thumbnail, she shapes the bird’s wing feathers and bill.  

The pieces are placed deep into the oven and the sheet metal cover is lowered when firing the pieces. They are then cooled off in the kiln, then taken to the baby bathtub, which is full of white house paint and dipped. They are given three dips, then dried outside under the tin roof.

The final step, is the painting of the pieces with acrylic paints, then they are sealed with lacquer. At the time of our first visit in the mid 1990’s, Isabel and her husband Gustavo, were no longer forming and working with the clay. They were painting together in the living room. Her sons and daughters are now doing much of the work, and ushering the next generation into the tradition.  

Trees and molds, hanging on the wall.


Why We Are Drawn to Folk Art

We live in a world where whatever we need is ready made, packaged and ready to take away. Most of what we purchase, whether it be food, household items or art, has been made in a factory somewhere in the world and brought to our doorstep. DSCN2265.JPG

It is rare to find work that is made by hand, piece by piece, with great attention and care to detail. Some of the world’s most exciting and creative folk art is made by common untrained people of Mexico, using whatever materials are at hand.


The work is steeped in tradition and is a place in the world where whole families still work together to bring income into the family, where family members work simply, with their hands, together, for a lifetime. The work includes utilitarian, ceremonial, decorative and historic objects that are vessels for local history, tradition and design mixed with modern and new techniques. It enjoys a history of over 2000 years and the people of Mexico are continuing to create art that reflects the roots and tradition of the culture. It is not a static thing and is ever changing as new ideas, materials and processes find their ways into the work, and old methods are rediscovered.


The world recognizes the inherent Mexican character which carries sense of national identity that the world relates to and understands, giving the work of regular people world wide recognition.

Trees of life from Izucar de Matamoros


Heriberto Castillo Orta has followed in the footsteps of his mother, Catarina Orta de Castillo, working in clay and color since he was young. Now in his late 70’s he still maintains a small studio where he lives and works. He has a bed, a cook top, small shelf for his clothing, a few dishes. The bed is always smoothly made, with a few clothing items laid out. There are chickens and dogs running the yard. His workspace includes a slab table, chair, a few rows of shelves that hold his finished pieces, jars of paints and brushes, and a collection of pinup calendars and pictures of tigers and other animals that muses. I always go away thinking that the living studio space has a packed dirt floor, but in reality, I believe it is a concrete slab

heriberto_castillo_2000.jpg

Heriberto is a gentle man, always happy to see you coming down the street to visit him. He seems to have a sixth sense when you are leaving the home of his sister Isabel, and greets you at the gate and takes you in to see his current work. Heriberto’s work follows traditional lines, such as the trees of life that his parents and grandparents made, animal candle figures, suertes and pyramid animal figures. Along with these, he creates ‘sahumarias’ or copal incense burners that are fashioned as the religious figures of San Rafael, San Miguel, the Anima sola & the Virgin of Guadalupe. One time you will find traditional dancers, another time mariachi figures or birthday candles. He works with traditional molds, but also creates new figures by hand. He paints with modern paints, acrylic, but does not finish them in the super glossy lacquer like Isabel’s work.


His painting style reflects that of Alfonso, but not so finely tuned, more of a rough look to it. These days, he rarely works in the family workshop, preferring the quite of his small studio.

Alfonso Castillo Orta


One cannot talk about Alfonso Castillo Orta without acknowledging his fantastic contribution to his craft and family legacy. During the farming depression of the 1970’s Alfonso quit farming and decided to take up the family craft of working in clay, making trees of life. Over the years he has developed his unique style and brought back into the craft the use of natural earth dyes.


His creative genius, years of hard work, and willingness to break from the traditional family designs, has won him recognition throughout the world for his work. Choosing not to follow the family tradition in design, coupled with the decision to bring the use of natural dyes, which his grandfather used in the early part of the century, back into the work was what set his work aside from the others in his village as well as the ceramic works of other artists in Mexico. The work took on other dimensions, embracing el dia de los muertos and other traditional and historic events, creating new markets and attracting collectors.


They entered their work in various concoursos (juried shows) and won many awards throughout Mexico and the great honor of being included in the Banamex, ‘Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art’ book, which gave world- wide recognition to his work, and cemented his role as Master folk artist ‘Don Alfonso’.

Part 3 of this article, featuring Francisco Flores will be in a future newsletter
© All rights reserved, April 2006, Dos Mujeres Mexican Folk Art www.mexicanfolkart.com