Photo: San Martin Tilcajete — Workshop of Vicente Hernández, Avenida Oriente #8

Invented in the 1950s, alebrijes, the brightly colored wood carvings are a recent addition to folk arts are among the best-selling Mexican folk art in the world. First developed in the style of popular paper mache figures, alebrijes were monster-type figures produced in the towns of San Martin Tilcajete and San Antonio Arrazola. Today the figures are carved from the twisted branches of the copal tree. The wood has a particular fragrance and its resin has been burned in ceremonial incense burners for thousands of years.

Today’s designs range from rustic to ornate, and the prices vary depending on the amount of work that goes into fashioning the piece.

Shopping Tip
Look for the name of the artisan on the artwork of better pieces.

In Oaxaca City
Artesanias Teresita, Murguia #100-B. Victor Vazquez manages a store that specializes in wooden figures. Featured artesanos include Ariel Playas and Silvia Castro.

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Questions // Preguntas

  • Any tips on dusting/conserving wooden animal figures, aka alebrijes? // ¿Algún consejo sobre cómo quitar el polvo o conservar las figuras de animales de madera, también conocidos como alebrijes? // Avez-vous des conseils pour épousseter/conserver les figurines d’animaux en bois, alias alebrijes ? // Irgendwelche Tipps zum Abstauben / Konservieren von Holztierfiguren, auch bekannt als Alebrijes?

Pedro Linares


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