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Origin of alebrijes

alebrijes oax


Origin of wooden alebrijes - Oaxaca 

There are figures of a very diverse fauna and fantastic beings of external Influences, from monsters, pegasi or martians to nahuales, expressions of the cosmovision of the original groups of Oaxaca.

More than crafts, some consider these pieces as true works of art. The knowledge for the elaboration of wood carvings is a process that is acquired from generation to generation. The inhabitants of Tilcajete are born and grow closely linked to the elaboration of figures as part of the family environment; they live among the piles of copal logs, with the tools, the paint or the process itself: the carving, the painting and the display of pieces for marketing inside their homes. Thus, children and young people are learning from the elders.

Some artisans call themselves traditionalists because they belong to a culture that keeps everything inherited from their ancestors. The grandparents made the pieces for family domestic use; before few were prepared and it is said that they were objects for the game or utilitarian: toys for children, spoons, resting benches, yokes, carts, births, saints, little angels and animals of the region, cats, dogs, burritos or horses, although elephants, lions or giraffes were also made. In the same way masks of tiger were made to sell or of characters for the carnival. It was used, among others, the palo de tzompantle, wood that apparently no longer exists in the region. Before, they made the pieces in white, it was only the carved wood without painting; the old men comment that they made them natural, rustic, but with the passing of time they began to paint them with the soot of the pots and the camal, which gave them "color". Shortly after they began to paint them with anelina.

There are figures of a very diverse fauna and fantastic beings of external Influences, from monsters, pegasi or martians to nahuales, expressions of the cosmovision of the original groups of Oaxaca.

Currently, the development of these crafts is the basis of the economy in Tilcajete. In some houses all work in the process of carving, painting and marketing. In the 1980s, the promotion of handicrafts in Oaxaca made possible the promotion of Tilcajete carvings, which increased sales and the development of talents. This boom also arose from the work of families who, perhaps in a visionary way, envisaged obtaining good income from the taste and demand of their wooden figures in both the local and international tourism markets.

During that decade the economy of the population began its transformation, because gradually the agricultural activities decreased and the migration contracted; thus, San Martín was raised with a better quality of life thanks to the progress of the family economy due to the development of handicrafts. Between 1985 and 1989 there was a decline in trade. It is probable that then the demand has diminished due to the saturation of these figures in the market; also, the repetition in the forms or the lack of innovation affected the fall. Then, in the 90s there was a new boom and from then on more families are dedicated to this work.

According to Florencio Fuentes, artisan of the place, the figures are sent among other destinations to La Paz, Nuevo Laredo, Cancun, Cozumel, Querétaro and Puerto Escondido; They also come to take them from San Francisco, California, Miami and even Germany. The main orders come from abroad, but also nationals are important, who dedicate themselves to supplying other states. The price depends on the quality of the work, that is, the carving and painting; likewise, size determines it, but what can greatly increase the cost is originality, which is located more at the artistic level than at the artisan level. Some have become famous for their creativity, such as the Blas family. Due to the price, foreigners are the ones who buy them the most. In Tilcajete there is no organization of artisans, each works independently, although the majority is dedicated to this.

The copal.- Nowadays, vinyl painting is used, which makes it possible to create finer and more colorful works, besides being able to clean the figure better than the aniline, with which, if a wet cloth is used, little the color soon disappears. To give the first forms the machete is used, then a knife to continue carving what they call rustic forms, and finally the blade to give the fine finish. Copal is the wood that is used, at the same time resistant and not very hard. Before, the artisans went to the nearby hills to cut the wood, only the necessary for the work, but due to the high production of this craft, the copal of the region was shrinking until almost extinct, which forced the creators to bring it every time from further away. For this reason, there are individuals dedicated to the exploitation and transport of wood. The copal trees are small and grow as showers, so you can not extract a large amount of wood, which requires making the most of each trunk and each branch.

Nowadays, the copal from different regions of Oaxaca, from the Huatulco and Los Valles gully, is brought, and although there are different qualities-some are softer, others harder, some brittle and others with too many knots-the artisans prefer that of the region itself. Therefore, to improve the quality of the wood, as well as to reduce costs, several hectares have been planted on land belonging to the population. Copal has always been used for these figures, because it is a wood that grows well in the hills; The tree sticks easy, does not require much water or great care, although it is necessary to carry out work every week and the planting should be taken care of looting or possible fires. Copal is cut off between six and seven years of age.

The figures. - Before they were made only animals, but then changed. Young people began to work other figures contributing new ideas. Before there were no dragons; then began to make monsters, then followed the Martian and hence what the inventive craft and the acceptance of buyers demand. With the increase in exports, buyers ask for more creative, not so repetitive figures. Despite this, pieces that look like manufactures are made because of their similarity, although although the figures may be similar due to their shape and proportions, painting usually makes them different. Some forms are repeated, hence the most commercial ones, such as dogs, armadillos or iguanas, but the figures do not only represent the local fauna, including domestic animals, but also those of the local fable. Since the 80s the artisans began to make various figures: giraffes, dogs, cats, elephants, zebras, deer and all types

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