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  • Huichol art at a major hotel in Polanco, Mexico City

    November 11, 2020 by

    The Presidente Intercontinental Hotel and Yawí Gallery are hosting its second Biennal of Huichol Art, with the inauguration of the exhibition and event starting on November 12th. According to the events press release, the objective is to recognize Wixárika (Huichol) artists, who have great difficulty in getting their work to the proper markets from their… Read more

  • What Happens When It’s Gone?

    November 5, 2020 by

    By Marianne Carlson. Communities rally together all over the world for many reasons. A natural disaster is probably the first thing that would come to mind. However, friends and neighbors also band together for what seems, at the time, a much smaller goal. For example, the Lake Chapala community has opened its arms and embraced… Read more

  • A promising talent on the loom

    October 7, 2020 by

    Cecilia Gomez Diaz is a very young and modest woman, whose work in weaving has been called art.  She is young (b. 1992) born in a small Tzotzil village just outside of San Andrés Larráinzar in the highlands of Chiapas. She did not learn Spanish until she was 12, when her family migrated to the… Read more

  • Friends pitch in to help Oaxacan artisans

    September 30, 2020 by

    As the pandemic drags on, artisans continue to suffer, making do with less, finding other ways to make some money. But there have also been efforts to find other ways to sell products. Some of the more sophisticated have been spearheaded by organizations such as the Friends of Oaxacan Folk Art (FOFA) in New York.… Read more

  • Radical icons

    September 24, 2020 by

    Mary Jane Miller is an artist in San Miguel Allende who fortunately, not only discovered the worth of handcrafts, but also that of religious iconography. She was born in Nyack, NY and began her art studies in Boston in the 1970s. She found the experience tough and asked for the school’s catalogue on international exchanges.… Read more

  • Giving papier mache artisans their own proper store

    September 17, 2020 by

    In a teeny-tiny space on Donceles Street, near the Senate Palace in the historic center of Mexico City, is a store called Tekitl. The name comes from Nahuatl meaning “work” often the kind done for the community, and sometimes its means “craft.” Tekitl is dedicated to the work of Mexico’s papier mache artisans. This is… Read more

  • The bathroom round-up… for now….

    September 8, 2020 by

    I so greatly appreciate your patience with these three blog posts. It next to impossible to get a lot of work done when people are tearing apart and putting one, if not the, most important room in the house. However, the plumber and tile guys are done…. This does not mean the bathroom is completly… Read more

  • Making progress in the bathroom

    September 3, 2020 by

    The difference between good work and not-so-good work is in the details. Last week, I posted the first pictures of the bathroom that I am finally having redone in my apartment. So far, Im pretty happy with maestro Camilo’s work. I’ve had to intervene on a few occasions to clarify and and make sure some… Read more

  • The great bathroom re-do

    August 26, 2020 by

    So I have lived in my tiny Mexico City apartment now for 12 years…. and for 12 years I have wanted to redo the bathroom. Isn’t that board keeping my sink up just oh-so fashionable? So I am finally taking the plunge. What took so long? To be honest, bad previous experiences with carpinters, tile… Read more

  • Kiki’s sophisticated coloring book

    August 20, 2020 by

    My first glimpse of Kikimundo (Kiki World) was in Tepoztlan, discovering the work of Judy Wray and her Flying Beetle organization. The artist, Kiki Suarez, had donated several images to be reproduced as street art murals in the town, part of efforts to push back against graffiti and other vandalism. To be honest, I first… Read more

  • A doll as living memory or ¡Viva Zapata!

    August 12, 2020 by

    Usually a violent uprising is fatal for business, but in one case, it spawned an industry. On January 1, 1994, a group calling itself the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) took up arms against the Mexican and Chiapan governments. Chiapas had seen uprisings before, and like others, the issues then were related to land… Read more

  • A bouquet of embroidery

    August 5, 2020 by

    Embroidery is important all over Mexico, but one of the most developed traditions is in the Yucatan peninsula, which uses 26 of the 36 stitches used in Mexico, done by both hand and machine. Traditional Mayan women here still wear embroidered clothes from cradle to grave. In addition to clothing, embroidery shows up on cloths… Read more

  • A reminder of what we lose during quarantine

    July 29, 2020 by

    During this time of COVID pandemic, Mexico’s paper mache artisans have been especially hard hit. Almost all of their traditional products are regalia for festivals and other celebrations. Although understandably on hold for now, such events have been the glue of Mexican society, making and reaffirming ties that help individuals and families whether life’s storms.… Read more

  • Make me if you can

    July 14, 2020 by

    Magia Textil de Severa Santiago is professionally run workshop specializing in the traditional embroidery and textiles of San Antonino Castillo Velasco. San Antonino is one of the Central Valleys’ famous handcraft town, located about 25 km south of the city of Oaxaca. It was once physically separate from the local economic center of Ocotlán, but… Read more

  • (COVID) Necesity is the mother of digital invention

    July 9, 2020 by

    This damn pandemic continues to affect the livelihoods of Mexican artisans, most likely for the rest of the year. Perhaps one good thing to come of this will be the embrace of digital resources to promote and sell Mexico’s handcrafted items. Most artisans have not really taken advantage the Internet to sell. One reason certainly… Read more

  • Taking Otomi embroidery to the next level

    July 1, 2020 by

    Tonani Lirio de los Valles is a 3-generation artisan family business, which has taken traditional Tenango embroidery to a new level. The family is not from the town of Tenango, but the embroidery style is the inheritance of this entire area on the Hidalgo/Puebla border called the Sierra Otomi Tepehua. The family is Otomi and… Read more

  • From Grandma, with love

    June 17, 2020 by

    For Artesanias Yotao, the making of dolls has both familial and cultural significance. It is a family of textile artisans located in the city of Oaxaca, with strong ties to the traditional barrio of Xochimilco and its weavers. The women of this family embroider and sew traditional wares such as bedspreads, pillows, aprons, tablecloths, napkins,… Read more

  • Silent jaguars

    June 10, 2020 by

    Starting around twelve years old, Juana Gomez Ramirez provoked the ire of her mother by spending time making jaguar figures instead of the traditional pottery the family made to survive. Gomez is from Amantenango del Valle, a Tzeltal village between San Cristobal de las Casas and Comitan, Chiapas. It has a long history of producing… Read more

  • Reviving and reinventing a nearly forgotten technique

    June 4, 2020 by

    In 1994, professor Carlos Romero Giordano wanted a reproduction of an inlaid chest that collector Ruth Lechuga had brought from a small village in the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca. He had trouble finding a person capable of doing the work until a young 18-year-old working in maintenance told him he could do it …. and… Read more

  • International pineapples in a dairy town

    May 27, 2020 by

    San José de Gracia is a small traditional agricultural village, but one family there has given the town an international reputation. The town is located in the northeast of Michoacan with a population of about 9,000. It would be forgivable to think that the area is famous for the growing of pineapples, but in reality,… Read more

  • Steady hands and old watches

    May 19, 2020 by

    About 20 years ago, Pedro Romero Ferrer suffered a terrible accident that changed his life forever. He had been working in industrial plumbing… fixing, installing, and constructing heavy pipelines. One day, he fell from a height of over eight meters. He landed on his feet, but the damage done to them ended his career. He… Read more

  • Charming kitsch available online

    May 13, 2020 by

    The Arzolike (ar-so-LEE-kay) workshop mixes new and old in surprising ways. The basis of their work is classic Mexican imagery and pottery techniques but reinvented and urbanized. Many of the 50+ original designs have the same appeal as pop culture items from the US and Japan, but the use of clay and more earthy tones… Read more

  • Parade puppets

    May 6, 2020 by

    It seems cruel to write about a handcraft for festivals during this seemingly interminable COVID lockdown, but it will be over. Until then, it is nice to think about what we have to look forward to. In some places in Mexico, one of these is the appearance of giant puppet figures on the streets. They… Read more

  • Community art projects in paradise

    April 29, 2020 by

    Judy Wray calls Tepoztlán “paradise.” So, she decided to add her touch to it. Wray and her husband Lazlo Krisch moved to Tepoztlán over 13 years ago. They traveled all over Mexico looking for a place to retire, but fell in love with the town as soon as they arrived. Wray grew up in a… Read more

  • Using sticks and strings to make millenia-old art

    April 23, 2020 by

    Like most Americans, my first contact with a backstrap loom was in Mexico. It was the Toluca Museum of Folk Art, located next door to the school where I was working. I came across a group of women sitting outside under some trees, quietly weaving with a maestra occasionally giving a student instructions. You would… Read more

  • Traditional toys vs. reality

    April 14, 2020 by

    When foreigners (and many Mexicans) think of traditional handcrafts, they usually assume that said crafts are either indigenous in origin or a mix of indigenous and European. That is not always the case. Some, like Talavera pottery, are completely European in technique and design. What makes them Mexican is that the raw materials come from… Read more

  • A dog that lives on in clay

    April 9, 2020 by

    At the entrance of the city of Colima is a monumental clay depiction of the “Dancing Dogs” (Perros Bailando), which was created by Guillermo Ríos Alcalá. The name is misleading as the dogs are not really dancing. The monument is a recreation of a famous archeological piece depicting one old dog “talking” into the ear… Read more

  • Manipulating delicate threads

    April 1, 2020 by

    Mexican crafts often tantalize with bright colors and bold designs. However, there are traditions that require a very delicate touch and result is something quite subtle. Perhaps the most delicate of all is “deshilado” or drawn thread work. This is an embroidery technique where horizontal or vertical threads are partially or wholly removed from a… Read more

  • Little black ones

    March 25, 2020 by

    If the 2020 census takers have visited you, then you were asked if you had African heritage. The question is significant because it is the first time it is being asked. Previously, ethnic diversity was represented in the census only through language(s) spoken, as a way to count those of indigenous heritage. The rationale behind… Read more

  • Shoes and pottery tucked away in northern Veracruz

    March 18, 2020 by

    As anyone who has gone off the beaten path in Mexico can tell you, the country is still filled with hidden gems…small towns which have preserved their identity and charm, which, of course, can include handcrafts. I first heard of Naolinco, Veracruz at the annual doll fair in Amealco, Querétaro. In the town’s doll museum,… Read more

  • A Buddha in Mexico? Why not?

    March 4, 2020 by

    Sometimes we foreigners, even those of us who live here, get the false impression that “Mexican culture” is something static… stuck somewhere 100 years or more in the past. We can be forgiven for this as most of what is promoted, especially to tourists, gives this impression, especially in the arts and handcrafts. The reality… Read more

  • With a potential for being sophisticated

    February 26, 2020 by

    While covering a story for a newspaper I contribute to, I was reminded that totomoxtle (Nahuatl for corn husk), is a more sophisticated material than what it usual uses would indicate. Anyone who has seen a tamale has seen totomoxtle. With the exception of the far south of the country, it is the wrapper of… Read more

  • Dolls that reflect their creator

    February 20, 2020 by

    Francis Espinoza is an artist and dollmaker living in Ajijic, Jalisco, but she is not an expat retiree. She inherited her artistic streak from her father’s side, a Monterrey family with more than a few painters and musicians. As a small child, she found it easy to draw, and her father’s canvases intrigued her. As… Read more

  • Fifth generation in stone

    February 5, 2020 by

    In the small municipality of Jesus Maria, just outside the city of Aguascalientes, the Alvarado family has been linked to the working of stone for generations. Today, the best-known member of the family is Fernando Alvarado, the fifth generation to chisel. The first generations did more utilitarian work, making things like stone water filters, water… Read more

  • Dolls born of an earthquake

    January 29, 2020 by

    September 19, 1985 marked Mexico’s worst modern earthquake disaster. Every year since then, the city has had an earthquake drill on that day both to keep prepared and to remember the tragedy. For those who live here, the memory of that event has become more poignant since the 2017 quake, which occurred 32 years to… Read more

  • The stone of colonial Mexico

    January 16, 2020 by

    A distinguishing feature of the traditional architecture of central Mexico is the stone buildings found in the historic centers of just about all of the major cities here, and even some formerly bustling mining towns. The architectural style is mostly from the Baroque period, with some Neo classical and Neo Baroque. What all have in… Read more

  • “Rebel” with a needle

    January 8, 2020 by

    When you think of a rebel, you think of someone who is against something or somebody, someone with an angry attitude, or a hippie-wannabe eschewing as many modern conveniences as possible. Leticia Albalat is neither angry nor pridefully signaling to the world that she is different. She simply lives life on her own terms. Her… Read more

  • Creating community with tile

    January 2, 2020 by

    When I was a little kid in grade school, I heard of the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. It was some kind of reading assignment for school, and while I soon forgot the name, the vague silouette of a tower stuck in my head ever since. But not because of the simple cone shape of… Read more

  • Of masks and mayhem in coffee country

    December 27, 2019 by

    Xico is a Pueblo Mágico, nestled in the Sierra Madre Oriental of northern Veracruz. It is filled with cobblestone streets and colonial houses, and the occasional horse is not uncommon either. This is coffee growing country and it is possible to smell it and chili peppers roasting at the same time. It was named a… Read more

  • Roses and Revelations- a tribute to Guadalupe in textile

    December 17, 2019 by

    It would be impossible to overstate the importance of the Virgin of Guadalupe to the Mexican psyche. While most Mexicans can be rather skeptical about many elements of the Catholic faith, Guadalupe maintains a sense of awe and sacredness that perhaps not even her son has. Perhaps this status explains why she does not have… Read more

  • A doll that is a basket

    December 11, 2019 by

    Before the colonial period, the Tarahumara (or Raramuri) inhabited most of what is now central and southern Chihuahua. After gold and silver were discovered in Parral in 1631, the Spanish pushed these people north into the high rugged mountains in what is now the Sierra Tarahumara. Modern pressures have forced the people into the most… Read more

  • Back and forth across the Pacific or Is it Mexican?

    December 3, 2019 by

    Before I write this post, I’m going to have to make a confession. When I first saw these crocheted figures, I immediately dismissed them… and for the same reasons that a lot of newer handcrafts done by women are dismissed. I simply assumed that it these were copies of some fad in the United States… Read more

  • “National” Doll Festival in Amealco

    November 26, 2019 by

    How a good idea gets smothered by competing interests. Amealco is a small town located in southern Queretaro near the borders with the State of Mexico and Michoacan. It is a largely Otomi area, where women in traditional dress and the Otomi language are easy to find. It has recently been designated as a Pueblo… Read more

  • Weaving religion

    November 19, 2019 by

    If you live in central Mexico long enough, you will inevitably come across the name of an indigenous group called the hñähñu or more commonly, the Otomi. Unlike the Mexica (Aztec) or the Purhepecha, the Otomi did not have a grand empire in the centuries before the Spanish Conquest. Their history has been shaped by… Read more

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