A visit to the famous FUENTES Studio!
Epifanio Fuentes in the carving room!
Oaxaca is a collector's paradise. Most of the villages around Oaxaca City specialize in a single craft. Almost everyone in the family is involved in the handicraft.
Collector1s of the black pottery can visit San Bartolo Coyotepec to the south, or find weaving to the north in Teotitlan del Valle. Collectors of alebrijes gravitate to San Martin Telcajete and San Antonio Arrazola. On the dirt road into the village, a sharp eye will notice a small sign announcing "ALEBRIJES" and often one over the door. One studio had an eight foot lizard on the side of the outside wall.
Everyone in the family was involved in the woodcarving business, and stepping through the doorway, there was an anthill of activity in the middle of a beautiful garden. Both the focal and geometric center of the house was the alter honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Patrones of Mexico. These alters varied in ornateness, but all were well attended, and most had fresh flowers.
A friend drove me to the far side of San Martin Telcajete, a village about 40 miles from Oaxaca City. It was not easy to find artist/carver, Zeny Fuentes, but well worth the search. His specialty is angels, with an occasional angel fish, which are usually sold before they are made.
The Fuentes' studio was actually the entire home. Zeny's father, Epifanio, met us at the door and showed us his carving area. Closest to the door was the stack of Copal wood with family members sorting and carving crude shapes from the branches. Fuentes sons were at the back of the yard sanding the figurines smooth. I was greeted and shown into the showroom. The smaller children were expertly wrapping packages while the older were helping with answers. The Grandfather wisely supervised the finances. I found the aroma from mother?s cooking on the outdoor, kitchen extension intoxicating. Overseeing the entire operation was the grandmother, who never needed to say a word. Even the dog announced visitors with the single, obligatory bark.
Epifanio Fuentes gave me a tour and demonstration of every step in the process of carving alebrijes. His skills have been passed down through generations, helping to make his son, Zeny, almost of equal renown. Every descendant of his family has crafted alebrijes. And every member of the family worked.