Category Archives: This and That

Our 9th Anniversary, Report from the Road and Sneak Peeks

Hello Friends! As we approach May 5th, we thought we’d mention that we saw a wonderful feature on Pittsburgh Today Live this morning about Cinco de Mayo with Heinz History Center CEO Andy Masich. Mr. Masich informed us that this year is the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. A video of the entire segment is available for viewing on the Pittsburgh Today Live site right now. As some of you know, Cinco de Mayo is also the anniversary of our Murray Avenue store location and ordinarily we make a bit of a to-do about that, but Jean-Pierre is hard at work on the feature film “Promised Land”, and so we promise that next year, on our 10th anniversary, we’ll throw a proper fiesta for everyone!
In March we had the good fortune to return to our favorite shopping destinations: Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaca. These roads always lead past the much beloved El Popo and Iztaccíhuatl. Luckily for us, a spate of eruptions from El Popo, as well as some strong earthquakes all began occurring after we were safely back home! Puebla was bustling as always and at every turn jacarandas in full bloom filled hearts with gladness:
Most of the time was spent in finding new acquisitions of Talavera, but I did manage to fit in a quick visit to our dear old friend, the Great Cathedral.
Here is a beautiful example of one of our new finds in Talavera, a unique chalice that we hope will go to a very deserving priest serving a Latino community.(sorry, it did…SOLD!)

On the first stroll down the Alcala upon arrival in Oaxaca, we were amazed to realize our good fortune at the chance to see the 2501 Migrantes exhibit by Alejandro Santiago. When standing or walking amongst the Migrantes, one felt their presence most distinctly and it was a truly beautiful and unforgettable experience. Though we already placed an album of these images on the store Facebook page, we include them some of them here:

There were other beautiful views to be had from the balconies along Alcala, including azaleas in bloom and Tehuanas strolling:

Our next day began in Mitla, on a bright sunny morning with true blue skies and long stark shadows.

The beauty of the mysterious temples, the bells and birdsongs of Mitla are something we will always remember…

The rest of our Mitla images are in this album on Facebook.
Remember to click on images here to view full sized. So from Mitla we proceeded to Teotitlan del Valle, where more extraordinary views awaited…

We were there for more of their famous Zapotec rugs, of course, and rugs we saw, from the sublime to the silly …

An example of dye making and spinning wheel demonstration materials:

..the finest rugs have only natural and organic origin dyes, two of the most commonly used are the recently infamous cochineal beetle and indigo. An example of one that came back with us:

We heard it long before we saw it, beautiful yet plaintive music, from far at the end of the main avenue that runs the length of Teotitlan. I said to Jean-Pierre, “That definitely sounds funereal”. And by the time the procession reached us, we saw that it was indeed.
Like so much that we see when in Mexico, it was a beautiful amalgamation of the ancient ways and the new.

The following day began with a reunion with the renowned Aguilar family of Ocotlan and Maestro Carlomagno Pedro Martinez of San Bartolo Coyotepec. Don Carlomagno, in addition to being a celebrated artist, with his spare and elegant, and always eloquent style in Barro Negro, is also the Director of the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular in Oaxaca. We acquired two wonderful new pieces from him but can’t yet show them to you as they haven’t arrived! But here is one that we already have, and a shot of Don Carlomagno in the courtyard of the Museo.

Demetrio Garcia AguilarFrom there we met up with Demetrio Garcia Aguilar, another Great Maestro and favorite of collectors from all over the world. The piece that Demetrio is holding there, called “Dualidad”, came back with us. P1020780

P1020867We missed seeing Josefina Aguilar, who wasn’t at home at the time, but nonetheless came back with some beautiful things from her, like this Virgin of Guadalupe. (sorry, the Guadalupe has sold!) We also visited with both Guillermina and Irene, and in addition to buying more new things from them, we also asked them both to pose for new pix for us…

Below, a few more sneek peaks from other finds from San Martin and Arrazola, by Jacobo and Maria Angeles Ojeda, Armando and Antonia Jimenez and Bertha Cruz(sorry, the cat by Armando has sold!):




A darling, giant painted gourd with gatos was too irresistible to leave behind!

And so we’ll leave it at this; there is still more to report, more photos to share and more new things still arriving and and being photographed as well, so next time we’ll pick it where we left off. ¡Until then, saludos!

Enter the Dragon…

…Wishing all who observe the lunar Chinese New Year a peaceful, joyous and prosperous Year of the Dragon! To those who want to celebrate with it a special piece by Jacobo and Maria Angeles Ojeda, we offer this beauteous green dragon for $185.00.

Three Kings’ Day ~ El Dia de los Reyes Magos

Nativity by Armando and Antonia Jimenez

Are your shoes ready for the Kings’camels? January 6th is El Dia de los Reyes Magos!

¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!

Diego Rivera exhibit in New York at MOMA

New Yorkers and others who may be headed to the Big Apple will not want to miss this exhibit; follow the link below to read more about it on the MOMA site:

Diego Rivera: Murals for The Museum of Modern Art
November 13, 2011–May 14, 2012

“Agrarian Leader Zapata”, 1931. Fresco, 7′ 9 3/4″ x 6′ 2″ (238.1 x 188 cm). Image property of The Museum of Modern Art, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund

Photographs from Muertos y Monarcas

We want to thank everyone who particpated in and championed Muertos y Monarcas this year and to share the pix from the ofrendas with you. First, though, I had promised some a link to background info on Dia de los Muertos, and this article by Judy King is one of my favorites. All of the links in this entry lead to informative articles or videos about the individuals and all of the photos are clickable to view full sized. Keep in mind that the ofrendas are limited to remembrances of people who have died between the last Dia de los Muertos and the current one, primarily because the ofrendas become very crowded quickly.

The next two images give two views of the pieces at the top center:

The mid center features an amazing ceramic Muerto by Demetrio Aguilar:

and directly below that is a highly detailed ceramic Frida by Tomas Baez:

Below Frida with her monkeys and birds is the area we call the “secret grotto”, featuring a beaded Huichol skull and behind it a papier mache skull mask:

..and a detail of the ceramic calveras feasting by Adrian Gonzalez in front of that, as well as the extra fancy sugar skulls from Toluca: the base in the center is the Mexican Drug War casualty count, and a favorite image in postcard form by artist Artemio Rodriguez, and to the right of that a shrouded figure in barro negro by Carlomagno Pedro Martinez and a Catrina driving a cart and horse by Guillermina Aguilar:

Below, on the far left we have the giant Deer Dancer holding the sign with the Iraq and Afghanistan war casualty counts and also a photo of activist and poet Susana Chavez:

A view of some love notes left behind by participants:

On the left wall, we fondly remember Peter Falk, Jack LaLanne , Captain Beefheart and Dr. Billy Taylor.

At midpoint on the upper left level we remember painter Lucian Freud and filmmaker Dino De Laurentiis:

On the lower left level, we have three strong women: Betty Ford, Geraldine Ferraro and Bernardine Healy:

On the lower left corner, we honor Jose Arguelles with a sterling silver Hunab Ku pin/pendant combo, a customized Hunab Ku candle and a Serpentine Mayan lord carving:

and to the right of Jose, we have Elizabeth Edwards between a painted cranio with serpent by Silvia Hernandez and muerto tree of life by Jose Luis Serrano:

On the right wall: Amy Winehouse, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Elizabeth Taylor, Steve Jobs and Facundo Cabral:

At midpoint on the upper right level we remember painter Leonora Carrington and Owsley Stanley:

On the lower right level, we honor two remarkable innovators: Dennis Ritchie and Wangari Maathai

And on the lower right corner, Bishop Samuel Ruiz, flanked by a miniature ceramic bishop calavera by Miguel Angel and a Zapatista on horseback from Chiapas:

On the base of the lower right we have another giant wooden Aztec warrior, enjoying his pan de muerto…

Over the window display case a pretty girl calavera in papier mache was taking a breather from the festivites:

On the bottom right of the window we had prolific composer John Barry and his mini piano playing skeleton self:

and two legendary Pittsburghers, radio personality John Cigna and former Pirates manager Chuck Tanner:

Also in the window on the right side are two more Pittsburghers and friends who left us all too soon, Leo Welsh and Ryan Douthit. Beside Leos’ photo is a classic cranio with butterflies in ceramic by Tomas Baez; beside Ryans’ photo is a selection of our sterling silver muerto jewelry, a carved and painted wooden monkey calavera by Bertha Cruz Morales:

In the bottom center of the window are two unique pieces; the “Kiss of Death” in barro negro by Carlomagno Pedro Martinez and a calavera sirena in ceramic, along with more assorted mini ceramics by Miguel Angel:

The window center is devoted to another Pittsburgher and our neighbor here at the store for the past seven years; Italian tailor and futbol player Alberto DiClemente:

On the upper left of the window we remember Sargent Shriver, and beside him more sterling silver jewelry in muerto themes, as well as a wooden catrina by Rocio Hernandez.

More personal remembrances follow in the window; shown here in succession are my Aunt Ruth Stafford Duesing, my beloved cat and best friend for 16 years, Poppy, and my dear brother Danny DiGioia.

In the lower left of the window we have photographer Lazaro Blanco and his mini photographer skeleton self:

Some of our visitors came in full dress:

And so another Dia de los Muertos had come and gone, reminding us once again of the mystery of our seemingly fragile existence and the eternal bonds of love that we all share. It also reminds us to cherish those we love, whether they reside in this world or some other, in every moment, putting aside grief, anxieties and conflicts wherever possible, and that surrounding ourselves with beauty is part of what makes being human in an inexplicable world not only more bearable, but more worthwhile. Conversely, that which we can’t immediately see with the physical eyes is no less present or beautiful. As the ex-angel played so perfectly by Peter Falk said to another angel in Wim Wenders’ iconic film, Wings of Desire (see link for Peter Falk!): “I can’t see you, but I know that you’re there. Compañero.”

“Muertos y Monarcas” ~ Day of the Dead Installations at Mexico Lindo

click to download flyer

The Monarch butterflies return to Michoacan each year on the Days of the Dead, and many believe they are the souls of the dead returning for a brief visit…and so here at the store we build two large ofrendas, or offerings, to help light their way home, featuring the monarchs as well our astounding selection of artesanias dedicated to this holiday, from the silly to the sublime.

Available for viewing from October 28 ~ November 19, with a candlelight Open House on the Days of the Dead: November 1 and 2, from 6:00 ~ 9:00 pm. We’ll be serving Chocolate Oaxaqueño and refreshments, and participants can add notes to their loved ones on the ofrendas. This year there will QR codes accompanying many of the photographs so that participants who bring smart phones or tablets can access additional media resources with url links and video clips pertinent to those that we are honoring. They can join our wifi network if needed, and should make sure that they have downloaded the appropriate QR code reading app for either Apple, Android or Windows devices.

Some of the dead who will be remembered this year include: Casualties of the wars in Iran and Afghanistan and Mexico’s “War on Drugs”, Steve Jobs, John Barry, Jose Arguelles, Susana Chavez, Bishop Samuel Ruiz, Facundo Cabral, Leonora Carrington, Lucian Freud, Geraldine Ferrarro, Elizabeth Taylor, Sargent Shriver, Billy Taylor, Betty Ford, Wangari Maathai, Peter Falk, Amy Winehouse, Jack Kevorkian, Chuck Tanner, John Cigna, Daniel DiGioia, Leo Walsh, Alberto DiClemente and many more.

Report from the Road

Well, when we posted a few pix from the road on the store Facebook page while in Mexico at the end of August, with the promise of more soon to come, I didn’t think it would take me this long to get around to it, but between unpacking all of the new things, creating this word press blog (still getting the hang of it!) and making plans for Dia de los Muertos, here we are in October already!

We began in Taxco, where the towers of the Santa Prisca cathedral are always a breathtaking welcome, beckoning everyone toward the zocalo…

Of course we were there for silver, and even though the prices had increased considerably since our last visit, we managed to find lots of new styles without breaking the bank. One of the latest trends is the use of a matte textured finish:

Little boxes and papel amate from Xalitla were also on the list, as always, and we were happy to find lots more of the little muerto cajitas:

We skipped Metepec and Izucar this time around, being already well stocked in Trees of Life and muertos from there:

So on we ventured onward to Puebla, where the views of El Popo and Izta make the drive magical every time.

It was a joy to see once again endless supplies of Talavera and drunken bees everywhere feasting on the candy that Puebla is so famous for…

Better still than all of that was that it was a Sunday, when the streets around all sides of the zocalo are closed to traffic. Everyone is free to wander leisurely arm in arm, buying toys, candy, tacos, listening to music, watching entertainment and generally making merry in that beautiful tradition that I have only ever witnessed in the zocalos of Mexico.

We found it no less compelling once evening fell, when the lights of the great cathedral shine brightly for all to see, and Jean-Pierre found the balloon vendors still out in full force:

The next morning we departed for nearby Tlaxcala, where we soon found we would have to venture out to nearby villages in order to find some of the things that we were in search of. The little shops around the zocalo did hold some treasures as well, though, like my perennial favorite, tiny Fortune Telling Birds!

We were also delighted by a new recycled wrapper trend, little billfold wallets:

We went in search of Tlaxcalas’ famous canes in Tizatlan, and were amply rewarded:

Also in Tizatlan is a very old church, convent and open chapel, built on top of sacred ruins, that are currently being excavated by the National Institute of Anthropology. And from this vantage point was a heavenly view of La Malinche:

And next we sought out an artist known for his papier mache, Federico Diaz Flores of Popocatla, where we picked up some crazy alebrijes:

Back in the heart of Tlaxcala, on a picturesque hilltop is the Temple and Ex Convent of San Francisco, a tranquil and magical refuge where Jean-Pierre spent may summers of his youth playing amongst the stately trees and buildings…

We returned to the zocalo once again to drink in the famous murals of the Government Palace, which had been closed for restoration when we had been there a few years previously. The artist, Desiderio Hernández Xochitiotzin, was a dear friend of Jean-Pierre’s family and one of the last great Mexican muralists.

We longed to stay to see more archeological sites, but time wouldn’t allow, and so we returned to Mexico City the next day to finish up our shopping. The Alameda was bustling for a Thursday, and we enjoyed the sight of the mounted police keeping watch:

As always, we picked up a little bit of everything: toys, glassware, nichos, Talavera, Servin stoneware, winter clothing, t-shirts, soccer jerseys, various tin items, papel picado, purses, miniatures, nativities, amate, stuffed animals, mobiles, xalitla and other ceramics, textiles and new masks of all kinds, just to name a fraction of our finds. And when we returned home, a few new spectacular pieces from Jacobo and Maria awaited us:

And so this seems as good a place as any to end this little travelogue and to tell you about this years’ Day of the Dead event, Muertos y Monarcas, which you can read about in the pdf file on the link. We’ll serve some refreshments and Oaxacan hot chocolate, burn the copal, add additional names to the ofrenda and light the candles on the Open House nights. It was another sad and difficult year with so many dead to remember, and once again we’ll be counting casualties from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Mexico.

If you need items to decorate your own ofrendas, now is the time to come and get them; we have sugar skulls and just about everything you could imagine to suit your needs. Hope to see you soon!