To Contact: This artisan’s page is part of the Feria Maestros del Arte website, a non-profit organization providing a yearly venue for Mexican folk artisans to come together to sell their work. If you wish to purchase the artisan's work other than at the Feria, you MUST contact them directly.
Av. Fray Servando Teresa de Mier #961
How alebrijes came to be is a beautiful story of which is family is very proud. Tails like those of dragons painted in a multitude of colors that accentuate their horrifying appearance and inject them with a bit of humor and tenderness. Alebrijes, celestial and diabolical creatures. Dark yet playful. Seductive yet repulsive. Fruit of the imagination of Pedro Linares, indisputable master of the art of cartoneria, the creation of sculptures from layers of paper. The unique style of Don Pedro has earned a place in the folk art collector's bible, Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art, published by Fomento Cultural Banamex.
Over 80 years ago, when his great-grandfather was suffering from a deadly illness he had a dream that he was in an unfamiliar place where there were rare animals, trees, rocks, clouds, animals changing shapes with horns, claws and wings and he heard the word over and over, "alebrije, alebrije, alebrije." He was not afraid because he knew these creatures were good. When he awoke, he found himself at home again and his infirmity was cured. Don Pedro had already worked with clay, wood, reeds, etc. and he felt this overwhelming need to recreate the figures he saw in his dream.
You may have heard that alebrijes began in Oaxaca. So how is Pedro Linares credited as the creator of this art form? There was a cultural exchange that took place between Pedro Linares and artisans who were fascinated with the alebrijes and started to create them using wood. This was 40 years after Pedro Linares created his very first alebrije.
Alebrijes are figures so surrealistic that they attracted the attention of the renowned poet of the surrealist literary movement, André Breton, who took many to Europe where they remain on permanent exhibition in Paris.
The renowned Don Pedro passed his love for working with paper and paste on to his descendants. Leonardo has become an unrivaled artist in his own right. Extraordinary quality, inheritance of vision of his maestro (teacher) in capturing traditional themes and shaping them in paper sculpture. Leonardo has mastered the technique of making alebrijes and over the years, he has improved his art and given his own special imaginative twists to the alebrijes he creates.
The alebrijes have made this family famous both in Mexico and internationally. Brown wrapping paper or newspaper are used to cover frameworks of reed or wire. The paper is attached with a flour-based paste of glue. The colors come from aniline dyes or commercial oil-based paints.
Artisans of deep-rooted folk lineage, the fantasies of the Linares family have generated prodigious, complete collections of popular characters converted into characters such as skeletons. Paper and paste in the hands of the Linares family, become an inarguable creative work of art that transmits a subtle message, a mixture of satire, humor and optimism toward life.
First, the paper is manually torn into small pieces so as to conserve the filaments and to make the paper easier to manipulate and adhere to the mold that will give it form. Normally, layers of brown wrapping paper are alternated with those of newspaper. The mold to be used is first coated with grease so that the paper will not stick to it. Next, the glue-covered paper is applied, carefully layered so that a smooth, even surface is maintained.
Paste is used to affix the layers of paper. It is prepared by mixing flour and water, a recipe similar to the atole beverage of Mexico, then putting it to boil until achieving the thick consistency necessary for the proper adhesion of the multiple layers of paper. After the initial layer, the piece must be left to dry for a time. Later, Ricardo continues applying pieces until the appropriate thickness is achieved.
For very large pieces, a framework of reed or wire, referred to as the alma (soul) is utilized, tied together with waxed cord. When this technique is used, the structure of the figure is assembled and then covered with paper, applied with paste, until the layer is sufficiently thick. Afterward, it is placed in the sun to dry or if weather does not permit, it is dried near a hot stove.
Another method for making heads or round forms involves using an inflated balloon over which paper is applied with paste. The piece is then hung by the mouth of the balloon until dry, at which time the balloon is deflated or popped.
In the elaboration of these alebrijes, Gerardo combines techniques - the result is that each piece is unique. Once the paper has dried on the mold, the figure must be removed by cutting it with a sharp knife. Then, the separate elements are rejoined with glue and more paper is added. Next comes the - whitening of the piece. Using white paint or whitewash. This process affords a more solid consistency for the application of the brightly colored paints.
The colorful designs painted on the piece develop according to Gerardo's tastes and imagination. Depending on the size and intricacy of the alebrije, it can take 3-8 weeks to construct one piece.