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Oaxacan Carved Animals
Transcript of Oaxacan Carved Animals
Oaxaca is both a state in Mexico and a city. It is pronounced wah-HAH-ka.
It is known for many things, one of which is the quality of its carved folk art.
Alebrijes are carved wooden figures created by Oaxacan artisans.
Most Oaxacan artisans simply call them figuras "wooden figures", naming them after the animal which they carved, such as the deer, raccoon, leopard, etc.
But when a fantastic figure is elaborated, the artisan is compelled to say he has created an "alebrije."
Ideas for shapes
The creative process in making a wooden figure begins with the artisan imagining a form.
On occasion, ideas arise spontaneously but sometimes artisans take days or even months imagining a very special figure.
Choosing the wood
Most artisans use “copalillo” wood to carve their figures.
The "copalillo" is a tree that grows in warm regions of Oaxaca.
Once the branch or the wooden piece has been selected, it is cut from the tree.
Once in the shop, its shell is removed. Initial cuts are made with the machete to form a rough idea of what the artisan has imagined. This gives it an initial proportion and size.
Eventually during the process they start using finer and sharper blades that are more precise and make finer cuts.
Drying and Sanding
Once the figure has been carved, it is exposed to the sun. This could take a day or even a month.
After making sure the figure is completely dry the artisan proceeds to sand the figure down. Sanding can take anywhere from an hour to a whole day.
Brushes and paintbrushes of all sizes are used in the painting of the figures. The decoration depends on the imagination, ability and dedication of each artisan. The amount of detail in a figure indicates the amount of time the artisan invested in the elaboration of that figure.
The artisan always puts all of his effort and heart into his work and leaves a trace of his very being in each figure that leaves his hands.