Have you followed Zinnia Folk Arts on Tumblr? We actively post photographs of folk art and the great country of Mexico there almost every day…so if like the visual side of this blog or enjoy the color and vitality of Mexico, please follow us there! It’s much faster for me to post there too, now that the brick and mortar shop is getting busy for the holidays. Take a look!
These amazing bird masks were purchased at an art fair in Chiapas. But, you’re thinking, these don’t look like Mexican masks. They look more Central American. And, guess what? You’re right. There is a mask maker from Costa Rica living in Chiapas making these incredible, one-of-a-kind pieces. They use a weaving technique more commonly seen in baskets. The color combinations, the design of the heads, those incredible beaks…all created by an artisan with a beautiful vision. These are unusual and would make a fantastic collection. They are available in the Zinnia Folk Arts online shop or click on the photo to take you there.
I thought you might be interested in the most recent look at how we like to display Mexican folk art at Zinnia Folk Arts shop! We wanted to move the holiday decorations out so I decided to put the vintage (1960’s White Period) Heron Martinez tree of life in the front window and build a colorful support cast of a variety of Mexican crafts. The color is so welcome during these grey days in Minnesota…it’s actually raining today. Enjoy the photos and of course, if you’re in Minneapolis, stop in. We’ll be waiting for you. Saludos!
One of the popular arts for which Mexico is most famous is the wood carvings of Oaxaca. In fact, if people only know one thing about folk art from Mexico, it’s usually about the wood carvings or “alebrijes” which they’ve seen at the beach resorts or airports of coastal Mexico.
The carving of masks and children’s toys in the Oaxaca area dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years, but the current expression of wood carvers in Oaxaca’s surrounding villages was started in the small town of Arrazola by Manuel Jiménez in the late 1950’s. Now, three tiny villages –Arrazola, San Martin Tilcajete, and La Union–are known for their carvings and carvers. The lives of these artisans are not easy. Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico and most of the carvers living in these villages are subsistence farmers and carve their beautiful pieces for extra income.
A few carvers have done exceedingly well and are world-renowned. This is true for Jacobo Angeles whose amazing work can take months to complete. He employs many, many family members in his lovely home in San Martin Tilcajete. His taste and ability are exquisite and his carvings are highly regarded and highly sought after. We carry the beautiful carved hummingbirds as seen below:
Jacobo’s sister, Roberta, carved this stunning nativity set and it too is exceptional in its concept and execution. Truly a unique and collectible piece.
There are many, many very skilled carvers in Oaxaca and I wish I could feature all of them. I plan to feature others in the days ahead.
Today, I want to recommend a couple of carving families in addition to the familia Angeles, and those are first, Flor and Abad Xuana and second, Aurelia and Juventino Melchor. In both of these families, the man does the carving and the woman does the painting. And in both cases, each person is an artist extraordinaire!
I’ve carried the carvings of the Xuanas before and they will always be some of my favorites. Flor is one of the tiniest people I’ve ever met and one of the most lovely. This photo was taken at the Day of the Dead show in Oaxaca.
Here are some of the lovely pieces that I purchased from Flor and are now available at Zinnia Folk Arts.
There is another couple from San Martin Tilcajete who does very nice work. They are named, Juventino and Aurelia Melchor. I especially fell in love with their bunnies and have quite a few of them in the shop. Here are two in the website shop…
For more information about Oaxacan wood carving and carvers as well as the inevitable politics of it all, you can read, Oaxacan Woodcarving by Shepard Barbash (1993). Another writer is Michael Chibnick and his book is Crafting Tradition: The Making and Marketing of Oaxacan Wood Carvings.
As always, if you have any questions, please ask!
Mexico’s most prevalent folk art is made in clay. Every state and every region of Mexico has artisans making functional and decorative pots. Here’s a small sample of some of the ceramics we currently have in the shop in Minneapolis. Come on in and take a look!
Here’s a sneak peek of a small number of the items that were in the last shipment. This is from the trip I took in January and February! So unpacking everything is a little like opening Christmas presents for me. Everything will be going to the shop at 826 West 50th and will be available when we open but if you see something and can’t wait, let me know through this handy form….Saludos!