Archive for May, 2016

Mexico, Part 3 and done.

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

The reason I went to Mexico in the first place was not to enjoy the ruins or the extremely delicious hot chocolate, though both of those were terrific. I went to go study a bead technique under two extremely talented artisits, Jan Huling and Nancy Josephson. It took place in Puerto Vallarta which is a seaside town very popular with tourists. I don’t really have much photography to post on the workshop because it was a group of women hunched over a small wooden altar gluing rows of tiny beads. I do, however, have pictures of some of the Mexican artwork I was privileged to see during my stay. Mexican art is, how do I say this, real vibrant. It looks like the artist is on drugs, the artwork is on drugs and if you stare at it too long you too will magically be on drugs from proximity to the art. I was particularly enamored with two different types of art – the beaded objects made by the Huichol (or Wixarika) people who live in the mountains and the alebrijes made in the Oaxaca area. First, beaded objects. The Huichol people started using beads in their sacred bowls in 17-something-something when the French brought seed beads to Mexico. Because they were so rare they were used very sparingly. The bowls looked like this:

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The Huichol use a very sticky wax to get the beads to stick to the substrate. Then in the 1970s when seed beads became far less scarce the pieces started looking like this:


Very encrusted. Here’s a great video showing you how it’s done.

I ended up buying a few bowls made from gourds with beads pressed into them. I think they’re pretty snazzy.

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As you can see a bead fell off from the first bowl but it’s no cause for panic because it’s only one yellow bead and as soon as I find one I will squish it into the wax and everything will be fine. Until then the empty spot will be a lovely reminder of the fragility of life. Or something.

The other artwork I was lovin’ on are things called alebrijes. Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

Alebrijes are brightly colored Oaxacan-Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. The first alebrijes, along with use of the term, originated with Pedro Linares. In the 1930s, Linares fell very ill and while he was in bed, unconscious, Linares dreamt of a strange place resembling a forest. There, he saw trees, animals, rocks, clouds that suddenly turned into something strange, some kind of animals, but, unknown animals. He saw a donkey with butterfly wings, a rooster with bull horns, a lion with an eagle head, and all of them were shouting one word, “Alebrijes”. Upon recovery, he began recreating the creatures he saw in cardboard and papier-mâché and called them Alebrijes.

So now there’s an entire art movement based on some guy’s fever dream. They vary in nuttiness but I found two I really liked. One is a… lizard-thing. With a mouth. And wings. And flames coming out of its head. Lotta stuff going on.

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The other is a snail who saw something very traumatic and is going through PTSD. Or he was at the Electric Daisy Festival and took far too much Molly and is having a bad reaction. Either story works.

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The Moomins saw these fellers when I got home and said, “You know, I have a jaunty preying mantis from Mexico that would go beautifully with these sculptures.” So now I also have a jaunty preying mantis friend.

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All of these are fine and good but as with any artistic style there are levels of skill and these are somewhere in the middle. I went to a gallery in Puerto Vallarta and got to see the best artists at this and it hurt my heart. I wanted those pieces so bad, but they ranged in price between $1,800 and $3,000 so I own none. The artists are a team, Jacobo and Maria Angeles, and they are amaaaaaaazing. I found some pictures on the internet that impress their fantasticness onto you. It’s intense.

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I know, right? Drool. Even if you’re not down with the aesthetic approach you cannot deny the skillz. Someday when I win the lottery I will acquire one of their pieces. It’s gonna happen. I should probably start buying lottery tickets though. That would definitely increase my chances of winning.

I brought home the alter that I was working on in Mexico and I have continued gluing beads onto it. I decided I wanted it to look like a petrie dish so I could freehand my design on it. I also glued some origami paper and some coins to it because if you’re going to try something new go all out.

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I’m now making small peyote-stitched tubes that I will sporadically attach to give some depth.


So there’s my trip to Mexico. If you have any questions, let me know and I will attempt to answer them for you.

Addendum: Other artwork we saw:

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Mexico Part 2.

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

And now for your enjoyment, pictures of the pyramids we saw at the ancient site of Teotihuacan.

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The pictures do the place precisely zero justice. This is not Snorth’s fault. The area is massive and when you get up close to something you can’t photograph it then either because it’s so freakin’ big. Wikipedia has a pretty good shot taken from the top of one of the pyramids that conveys the immensity of the place a bit better.

Similar shot, more biggerer:

When we arrived we were standing in a little field in the upper left corner of that picture. The field was meh and the pyramids looked really small and I was thinking, “Okay, this is fine. I mean, after Machu Picchu you can’t expect to be blown away by all the ruins.” I was woefully incorrect. The guide said we had to climb one of those little flat pyramid things and both Snorth and I were like, “Pass.” I still remember the steps of Peru. They haunt me to this day. The guide said, “You really should because how you see the ruins now is not how they were back when the pre-Aztecs built these structures. They were covered with stucco that had paintings and there were carvings. If you climb those stairs you’ll be able to see some of those-” I was off and climbing. Badly. On all fours like a toddler. But I did it. And it was totally worth it.

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Look at those giant weird heads! I thought the heads along the sides of the stairs (those stairs are enormous btw, around upper-shin-high) were jaguars but it turns out it is Quetzalcoatl the feathered snake, a very important deity in the pre-Aztec religion. The cube-shaped heads are crocodiles (the guide said you could tell by their “tusks” which delighted me no end) and the doughnut shapes are very sacred and represent water. Interesting fact: this whole giant religious place (no one lived here, it was just for ceremonies) was built without wheels and the thought is that the wheel shape was sacred and was not used in construction. I think they used logs, or possibly the same technique used to move large stones in Peru, which is covering the path with smooth cobblestones and sliding them. Nobody knows because this group of people had no written language. Another fun fact: they didn’t use any animals for labor. They didn’t have horses or cows or sheep yet, there are no llamas in this area and both deer and bunnies are notoriously bad at being pack animals so it was all man-strength. When you see how many buildings there are in this place you really appreciate how long it must have taken to build this.

In addition to the cool carvings the whole place was covered in stucco that was in turn painted with ground-up stone pigments. Bits of it remain but it is sparse and in poor condition as one could expect.

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In addition you’ll notice that in the picture above there’s that pattern with the main stone put in the cement and then wee stones peppered around it. That is so you know it’s a rebuilt portion, not original. It makes seeing the original parts much easier. Apparently there was a lot of wear and tear from the elements. A good example of that is the next picture. The part above was exposed. The part below was not. Look at the differences in the faces of the critters on the side. They used to be the same.


I highly recommend if you’re in Mexico City you go to Teotihuacan. It is an amazing site and well-worth exploring. Bring walking sticks because if you go up and down the stairs there are no railings and the stairs are unforgiving.

After being there for several hours Snorth and I got back to the city and went on a city tour. This is where The Incident happened so I wasn’t paying the correct amount of attention because of the trauma of the theft and the hot booger sauce that had covered my forearm, but I absorbed some information. The first place we went was the parliament. Now, back here in the good ole U.S. of A. in a government building we would have murals of Washington crossing the Potomac or something, right? Not in Mexico, oh no. The government commissioned giant murals from Diego Rivera, a known Communist. And he painted what he wanted. As you come up the stairs you are greeted by the central part which is a giant battle between the indigenous people and the Spaniards.

Okay, fine. However, the mural off to the left takes a whole different turn. At the top is Karl Marx like Jesus and if you look about halfway down you’ll see a woman with her boob exposed making out with a priest (representing the church) and he’s putting money and a cross into her hand. Did I mention this is in the main government building? And the stairs are the only way to get to the second floor?

Off to the side are several smaller murals depicting the life of the people up until the Spaniards arrived. They show how corn was turned into tortillas and how the food was grown and how the dentist worked, basic village life-stuff. But it was not all sunshine and rainbows. In one of the market scenes there was an Aztec prostitute with creepy red teeth being offered a human arm for her services. I would pay someone to take the human arm away, but that’s just me. Once again, main government building.

Mexico, Mexico City. Murals inside the National Palace painted by Diego Rivera, Mexico CityThe murals decorate the stairwell and middle storey of the main courtyard and depict Mexican History from the life of Tenochtitlan through to the Spanish Conquest,

I highly recommend seeing this in person, frankly it’s pretty great. I mean, it’s weird as hell, no doubt about it, but awesome.

We also saw the Building of Lies, also known as the big Beaux-Arts building in the center of town. Look at it, isn’t it gorgeous with its Art Nouveau and its roof and all that?


Inside should be similar. NO. LIES. The inside is Art Deco. Art Deco and dark. You can’t even see the ceiling from the inside. I was so bummed.


It was cool to see that outside there was a Metro station from Paris.


And gorgeous jacaranda trees all over the place.


I think it is a testament to Mexico City that even though my phone was stolen I would still totally go back. I loved it there and I need to see more of it.

Next entry: my beading workshop and some of my purchases.