Category Archives: arts and crafts

Alebrijes and Oaxacan Woodcarving


I am a big fan of Oaxacan Woodcarving.  Good thing I’m going to Oaxaca!  Last year, I picked out a fabulous rabbit painted by Aurora Sosa of San Martin Tilcajete.  I think I ended up having my husband buy it for me for Christmas or my birthday or something.  It looks like the bunny on the left, only in the crouching position.

Over the years, I have purchased a couple of woodcarvings, but they are smaller and less detailed.  This was the first one I purchased as a collector – I just thought it was beautiful and I wanted it.  If I am lucky, maybe I will get to go to Aurora Sosa’s village and meet her.  Her father, Luis Sosa Calvo, is also a carver.

From Wikipedia:  Alebrijes originated in Mexico City in the 20th century.  The creation of the first alebrijes, as well as the name itself, is attributed to Pedro Linares, a Mixe Indian artisan from Arrazola, Oaxaca who made a living in Mexico City making piñatas, carnival masks and “Judas” figures from papier-mâché.   He sold these in markets in Mexico City in the 1930s.

When he was around thirty years old, Linares fell ill with a high fever which caused him to hallucinate.  He dreamed that he was in a forest with rocks and clouds, many of which turned into wild, unnaturally colored creatures, some with wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth and bulgy eyes.  While seeing the creatures, he heard a crowd of voices which repeated a nonsensical word that sounded like “alebrije.” After he recovered, he began to create the creatures he saw using papier-mâché and cardboard.

The descendents of Pedro Linares, many of whom live in Mexico City near the Sonora Market, carry on the tradition of making alebrijes and other figures from cardboard and papier-mâché.  Recently, there has been a yearly Parade of Alebrijes in Mexico City.

Here are some links about paper mache alebrijes and Pedro Linares:

History of Mexican Paper Mache Sculptures
Wild Dreams and Rainbow Faces – article about the Linares family on
Pedro Linares family website – has some glitches, but recounts Linares’ original “alebrije” dream.
Paper Mache Dragon by Joel Garcia Grande, who studied with Pedro Linares
The Skeleton at the Feast:  The Day of the Dead in Mexico
by Elizabeth Carmichael and Chloë Sayer – includes work of the Linares family
Exhibit in San Diego featuring Linares

More from Wikipedia on Wooden alebrijes (paraphrased):  “What are called “alebrijes” in Oaxaca is a marriage of native woodcarving traditions and influence from Pedro Linares’ work in Mexico City.  Pedro Linares was originally from Oaxaca, and during family visits to Arrazola, he demonstrated the designs he was making in Mexico City. The first to copy the fantastic forms and bright colors was Manuel Jiménez, who carved the figures in local copal wood rather than using paper.

Animal figures had always been carved in the central valleys area of Oaxaca by the Zapotecs since the pre-Hispanic period.  Totems of local animals were carved for luck or religious purposes as well as hunting decoys. Figures were also carved for children as toys, a tradition that continued well into the 20th century.  After the craft became popular in Arrazola, it spread to Tilcajete and from there to a number of other communities.

Now the three main communities are  San Antonino Arrazola, San Martin Tilcajete and La Union Tejalapam, each of which has developed its own style.  The carving of wood figures did not have a name, so the name “alebrije” eventually became adopted for any carved, brightly colored figure of copal wood, whether it is of a real animal or not.  To make the distinction, the carvings of fantastic creatures, closer to Linares’ alebrijes, are now sometimes called “marcianos” (martians).

Oaxacan alebrijes have eclipsed the Mexico City version, with a large number of stores in and around the city of Oaxaca selling the pieces and it is estimated that more than 150 families in the area make a living carving and painting the figures.  Many rural households in the Mexican state of Oaxaca have prospered over the past three decades through the sale of  these brightly painted, whimsical wood carvings.   They sell them to international tourists and the owners of ethnic arts shops in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

Here are some books I found about Oaxacan Woodcarving:

Mexican Folk Art: From Oaxacan Artist Families by Arden Aibel Rothstein and Anya Leah Rothstein
Crafting Tradition: The Making and Marketing of Oaxacan Wood Carvings
by Michael Chibnik
Oaxacan Woodcarving: The Magic in the Trees by Shepard Barbash and Vicki Ragan  and the sequel:  Changing Dreams: A Generation of Oaxaca’s Woodcarvers

Dream Carver by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Amy Cordova – children’s book inspired by the story of Manuel Jimenez

Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan – the focus is on the Night of the Radishes, but Naomi is descended from a Oaxacan woodcarving family.

ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill.  The carvings were made by Moisés Jiménez and Armando Jiménez and photographed by K.B. Basseches. Cynthia Weill also wrote Opuestos: Mexican Folk Art Opposites in English and Spanish with carvings by Martín Santiago and Quirino Santiago.  She also has a new book coming out called Colores de la Vida: Mexican Folk Art Colors in English and Spanish (First Concepts in Mexican Folk Art) – there is no mention of who the carvers are.

Lesson Plans:

Wood Animalitos:  alebrijes made from pieces of wood

Woodsies Extraordinaire – could be adapted to Oaxacan Wood Animals

Texture Critters – a drawing project inspired by Oaxacan art

Mythical Beasts – can be adapted – students create  a mythical beast and write a story about it

Mexican Animalitos – these are made from paper mache

Whimsical Oaxacan Animals – made from paper clay

Alebrije Painting Lesson based on a  book based on a Zapotec legend called Rabbit and Coyote by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Drawing Oaxacan Alebrijes – from

Here is a 9 week art unit on Mexico for sixth grade

Here is a lesson plan where students  construct a fantasy animal of paper and plaster (for 3rd or 4th grade)

Alebrijes: Fantasy Animals – 3rd grade Spanish animal unit with links to Activity Sheets in English and Spanish – very well thought out.

Websites with examples of Oaxacan Woodcarvings:
El Caracol Zapoteca – beautiful photographs – my favorite!
La Fuente Imports – photos also very well done
Solmar Imports – more examples, along with other folk art

Port Wahakaa’s website, The Art of Oaxacan Woodcarving has an excellent gallery with articles on copal trees, the styles of woodcarving villages, animals in myth and nature.  There are three galleries illustrating the work of many carvers, with short comments on each artist.  There is also a “Rough Guide” describing various styles with an examples from the same artists described in the gallery.

Articles about Artists and the art of woodcarving:

Here is an article on Gabino Reyes and Eloy Santiago
Crizmac Article on Zeny Fuentes
Website of Jacobo and Maria Angeles Ojeda – own a gallery and restaurant in Tilcajete article on how woodcarvings are made
Oaxacan Woodcarving: Innovation Meets Tradition – this is a DVD featuring Zeny Fuentes offered by CrizmacEl Caracol Zapoteca offers articles on woodcarving and artists

From – here is a reading in English and Spanish about alebrijes, with a recording of the Spanish reading – there is also a long version for more advanced students.

Finally, here is a clipping I got a while back from the Crizmac website (click on the image for full size).

More Monthly or Daily Challenges


A friend of mine on Facebook just posted that she was about to embark on “30 Days of…” exercise.  I don’t know if she got this idea from The Happiness Project or from somewhere else.  The idea is that, if you do something every day for thirty days, it will become a habit.  In theory, I should be doing that, too (exercise), but first, I will finish this post.

Here is a comment about it from the article posted above – it’s about exercising or doing something 4 days a week instead of every day:

“If I try to do something four days a week, I spend a lot of time arguing with myself about whether today is the day, or tomorrow, or the next day; did the week start on Sunday or Monday; etc.”

How TRUE that is!  I do that all the time!  Even now, I am thinking about writing my friend (who is feeling bad and doesn’t feel motivated to exercise today) to tell her that August has 31 days, so she has one day lee-way.  I’m such a good friend…  Or am I the DEVIL?

I have had a pretty good run doing the NaBloPoMo – I only missed one day after I knew about the challenge, and that’s only because I didn’t have access to the internet.  Now, am I going to continue to write in my blog every day?  Maybe, but probably not.  I am about to start school, and I may not have time every day.  But I am going to make a list of things that I still want to add to my blog and keep it handy for when I can’t think of something.

Here are some more ways to challenge yourself:

Thing a Day is during the month of February (apparently you must sign up between Jan. 26 and before midnight on Jan. 31 – the website says that there are no late sign-ups.)  Everyone is invited to sign up before February 1st and commit to make one new thing (project, sketch, exercise) per day and share it on this group blog.   They are pretty loose about what you can do, but they did state that all work should be from that month only – no recycled work.

Everyday by Tom Judd was a project that this British artist did for two years straight. “Everyday was a self-set project intended to keep me drawing on a regular basis. Each page represents a day of my life and was scanned and uploaded to my site. I completed 2 years of drawing Everyday.” If you go to his website, he has all of his 741 works up for you to browse.  Amazing!

A little bit closer to my heart (only because I have seen him play two times with Paul and Storm) is Jonathan Coulton.  He did something he called Thing a Week – Here is the description from Wikipedia:

“Thing a Week” is the name that Coulton gave to a creative experiment which ran from 16 September 2005 to 30 September 2006. In this project, Coulton undertook to record 52 musical pieces in the course of a year, one each week. This target was achieved.

Here is a link to the first entry of his Thing a Week challenge and here is the final entry for the challenge.  This is all part of his blog, of course, so there are also blog posts about other topics.  The Thing a Week project got him some press, and you can even buy CDs of his work during that time at  Just search Thing a Week – and that link is only for Part ONE.

Can’t commit to a whole project or thing a day.  How about a Sentence A day?  Here is a link to the How to and Reasoning behind Gretchen Ruben’s One Sentence Journal.  It is not a blog, she hand-writes it on paper.

I decided to search for Haiku Blogs – talk about the art of keeping it simple!  Interestingly enough, both of the ones I found don’t have any recent entries.  One Haiku Every Day ended on February 11, 2009.  Haiku A Day had it’s last entry on December 23, 2008.  Of course, there are all sorts of haiku fan sites, too.

Here is the Cupcake a Day blog.  I had to look that up because, secretly, I wanted to do that one… This blog includes not only the author’s recipes, but links to other great recipes and I think I even saw a cupcake bakery featured.  I love it!

Now, with the movie Julie & Julia coming out, I could not NOT mention Julie Powell’s blog.  I first found this blog but I supposed the rest of the entries were used for her book (?).  I then found another, more recent-looking blog here.  Hey, she got a book and a movie out of her blog – what an inspiration!  Here’s an interview with Julie – and an blog entry I found about Julia Child’s opinion of the Julie/Julia Project.

Here’s another month-long project:  November is Art Every Day Month!  (Wow, what is it about November?)  Here is an explanation from the founder:

“I keep the rules for AEDM really simple and very loose. I encourage people to make something every day, but my goal is to foster more creativity, so if you make just one piece of art per week or just one for the whole month, that’s fine with me. The idea is to bring more creativity into your life, not to make you feel overwhelmed, pressured or guilt-stricken. Art is also loosely defined here. I mean art in the sense of anything creative, whether that be painting, drawing, knitting, sewing, cooking, decorating, writing, photography, clay, jewelry-making or whatever!”

She also has a blog and a Creative Every Day Year-long Challenge:

“Creativity is meant in the broadest sense, so it doesn’t have to be something art related. Your creative acts could be in cooking, taking pictures, knitting, doodling, writing, dancing, decorating, singing, playing with your kids, brainstorming ideas, gardening, or making art in the form of collage, paint, or clay…or whatever!”

Finally, I found Every Day Art – I think it started out as a college class assignment.  There are no participants at the moment, but all of the assignments are there for inspiration!

Loteria Artesania, Part 3


Okay, here is the rest of what I found up until now.  I had a really good time looking at all of the cool sites on Mexican Folk Art.  La Fuente Imports was my favorite!

34 El soldadoThis tin soldier, although it may not count because it was manufactured as part of a set on the Mexican and American War… but this paper mache soldier is hand-made.

35 La estrellaThis star lamp was the first one I found on my Lomini - 023teria journey.

36 El cazo – Now, some people translate it as “the bean pot” and others as “the ladle”: this miniature copper pot looks like the picture, so it will do!

37 El mundo (The World) – they have all sorts of suns, moons, and stars, but I haven’t found this yet!

38 El apache (The Apache) – I don’t understand why it’s an Apache – I may substitute with an Aztec warrior.

39 El nel alacran huichol beadedopal –  Here is a tin mirror and a painted tin ornament.

40 El alacrán – I looked around a lot, and found this beaded Huichol egg (ornament?)

41 La rosa – Check out this Tehuana embroidery – this is called a huipil. Here is another one.  I was also finally able to find some paper roses.

42 La calavera – I really loved this groovy skull tile, but here’s one in paper mache that’s pretty traditional.

43 La campana – Here is a little bell – it’s a tin campana tin orn

44 El cantarito – This is a gorgeous blown glass pitcher.

45 El venado – So many to choose from – here is a Oaxacan carved alebrije.  Here is a Huichol yarn painting of an ordinary gray deer, and here is my favorite – the magical blue deer in a yarn painting.

46 El sol – Finding a sun figure was not difficult at all – it was narrowing it down that was difficult!  Here is a paper mache sun and here is one in Talavera.

47 La corona – I found this – it’s used to “crown” saints statues in churches.  Maybe this one is more el sol talavera 1 large“crown-like.”

48 La chalupa – I haven’t found many options.  I may replace it with  la muneca.

49 El pino – Here’s a Christmas tree tin ornament.

50 El pescado – Here’s another coconut creation (it’s not really a mask) and a Oaxacan carving.

51 La palma – Yet another tin ornament.  Next project:  the tin ornament loteria!

52 La maceta – Here’s a Talavera pottery flower rana pmache

53 El arpa (The Harp) – coming soon!

54 La rana – Finally:  the frog in paper mache.

Now I may spend some time on another project – but this was fun.  Later, I will talk about the riddles that come with the loteria and how you can write your own (also an excellent classroom activity!).

Loteria Artesania, Part 2


Sorry I missed a day – I thought I would be able to access the internet at Callaway Gardens, but I could not.  Still, I have had a pretty good run at NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month).

Here is the next group of Loteria images I found.  As you will see, even after so many hours of searching images (I’m embarrassed to tell you how many), I have some missing.  That means substitutions.  Let me explain:  the idea behind this Loteria exercise was to come up with a traditional number of cards – that would be 54.

So, while I could have approached it several ways, I was trying to stick with images as close to the names of the cards that I could.  And – they needed to be some form of Mexican Folk guitarra toy

17 El bandolón – I couldn’t find a sitar (or mandolin?), so I used la guitarra instead.

18 El violoncello (The Cello) – still looking.

19 La garza – I found this Oaxacan wood carving (alebrije).la mano nicho

20 El pájaro – I like this Otomi embroidery swatch, or this Talavera bird.

21 La manoThis milagro (but it’s not large) and this hand nicho – I like it because it’s unique.

22 La bota – It wasn’t easy, but I found these Virgin of Guadalupe boots.

23 La luna – I love this paper mache moon.el borracho pap mache

24 El cotorro – Here is a paper mache parrot.

25 El borrachoHere is a drunk man made from paper mache.

26 El negritoHere is a traditional wooden carved and painted mask called El Negrito.

27 El corazón – I have soooooo many kinds of hearts, but I like this one in wood with milagros.

28 La sandía – a lovely coconut shell mask with a watermelon on it.

el tambor huichol29 El tambora Huichol yarn picture.

30 El camarón – haven’t found one yet.  I may replace it with this elefante (Oaxacan carving).  I have already asked for it for my birthday.

31 Las jaras (The Arrows) – Not yet.

32 El músicoa painted tin ornament of a musician.

33 La araña (The Spider) – Nothing yet.

More later!

Loteria Artesania, Part One


Yes, summer’s ending, and what am I doing?  Creating loteria decks in my head.  Here’s the deal.  What I do when I am bored is to, well, uh, instead of counting sheep… I look for rhyming words.

I can see your confused looks – It’s very simple.  I choose a phonetic ending, let’s say “-ait”.  Then, I go through the alphabet, looking for words that are spelled with that ending, or that sound (you know: -ate, -eight,…).  That would be ate, bait, crate, date, eight, fate, freight, gate, gait, great, etc.  What can I say – it keeps my mind occupied.

I don’t think I have OCD – I can stop whenever I want.

That has sort of transferred to the whole Loteria thing.  I have already started one post on “Making Your Own Loteria Deck“.  So, this is the logical next step.

I chose the theme of Mexican Folk Art – Here is Part One:

1 El gallo – I found three possibilities:  a Oaxacan carvinga painted clay rooster,  and a painted tin rooster.el gallo clay

2 El diablito –  a coco mask

3 La dama –  a huichol mask or  a clay miniature.

4 El catrín –  a clay figure of a smoking man.

5 El paraguas –  these oilcloth dishwashing gloves (to keep the water off your hands – I know it’s a stretch… or this clay day of the dead beach figurine.

6 La sirenaa painted tin mirror

7 La escalerathese primitive ladders or this Aztec temple tin ornament (it has stairs).

8 La botellaa set of Cuervo bottle tin ornaments.

9 El barriel arbol de vida 2lthis balero toy is shaped like a barrel.

10 El árbol – either this arbol de la vida or this one.

11 El melón – this one’s a long shot: a paper mache pumpkin.

12 El valientethis tin ornament.

13 El gorrito – no bonnets – I had to go with this sombrero or this sombrero pinata.

14 La muertethis clay pera laque

15 La perathis silver leaf gourd.

16 La banderathis popotillo plate with the eagle on a cactus, like the Mexican flag, or this papel picado which is like little flags, or this tin soldier holding a Mexican flag.

That’s it for part one.  Yes, I don’t have much to do right now.  More tomorrow!

A Little More About Huichol Art


After my post the other day, I immediately received a message from Stephen Cantrell from the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe, NM.  He said that the museum will be holding a major exhibition of Huichol works from the museum’s holdings (more than 650 pieces!) opening in April of 2010.  I can hardly wait!  My husband and I were tentatively planning a trip out west this summer, but have put it off again.  Maybe now, we can plan for 2010.  I hope that the exhibit will run through the summer!  If not, we may have to make it a Spring Break trip!

I also heard from Susana Valadez, who is the driving force behind the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts, which does fantastic things for the Huichol people.  I just spent the last couple of hours at the Huichol Centers site (or sites?  They must be in transition.)  Actually I had visited that site earlier this year, but did not have it noted in my files.  They have SOOOOOO much to offer – you MUST visit the site!

The first link Mrs. Valadez provided features a wonderful 24 slide presentation of just what her foundation does for the Huichol people in her area.  It’s fascinating and easy reading – it even mentions the Solar Light initiative I mentioned in the previous post.  I was particularly enthralled by the “soy initiative” which provides needed protein and soy milk to these people.  Now, I am not a fan of tofu, but it sure beats a lot of other proposed ideas for feeding the world…

If you go to the “other” site for the Huichol Center for Cultural Survival and Traditional Arts, you will find a well-produced 12 minute video presentation about the work done at the center.  There are also FABULOUS coloring books – one of the Huichol alphabet and one of the counting in Huichol and Spanish – in PDF form to print out.  This is a fantastic resource for school teachers – just go.

I immediately wanted to go down and volunteer both my expertise (teaching English as a Second Language) and my husband’s (computer tech support) and stay for a while.  Maybe later.  For now, I may just order some of their jewelry or cards from the website and make a donation.  Donations are welcome, and they will send a thank you note as proof for the old IRS.  So, you people who are complaining about immigration – here’s a chance to support sustainability on the other side of the border:  put your money over there!

Please continue to add comments as you find other resources – I always welcome feedback!

Huichol Indian Art


I spent a lot of time last night organizing my notes and links on Huichol huichol_jimenez2Indian art.  It took a lot of time, because of course I got distracted by other fascinating lesson plans and resources on the internet while I was searching for the links and site to use in my post!

I think that there is a lot of potential for using Mexican culture and art to teach Language Arts – not only to ELLs but to mainstream classes (many of which are populated by Latino students…).  But, hey – you don’t have to be Latino to be fascinated by other cultures and interested in art and imagination.  Gosh, I hope not, anyway!

As I was going through my files, the first thing that caught my attention was the excellent set of lesson plans created by Target and Scholastic Magazine in cooperation with the National Museum of Mexican Art.  It is called “Dream in Color” and is an amazing resource for teachers.  There you will find samples of art, a map of Huichol country, a history of the Huichol people, and a three page reference chart of Huichol symbolism.  Outstanding!

I am not going to go into a lot of detail of who the Huichol Indians are, because these resources explain it all.  They live in the hills throughout  northwestern Mexico.  You may have seen yarn paintings and beaded masks and bowls made by them.  They are also the people who brought us ojos de dios (God’s Eyes) – a staple of elementary school crafts programs.  You may have also heard that they consume peyote, a psychedelic cactus, but I think that this can be downplayed and should NOT be a reason to avoid teaching about this culture.

Huichol Ceremonial Rattle

Huichol Ceremonial Rattle

First, here are links to basic lesson plans on Huichol Yarn and Bead Painting. (Dick Blick has many lesson plans to choose from and they are available directly on their site, or in PDF format.)

Here are some links with general information on the Huichol Indians and their history and culture.

Here are some online photo galleries of Huichol Art – awesome examples!

In case you were not aware – most Huichol yarn paintings tell a story.  While it is possible that some of these visions were induces by peyote, it is also valid that these could also be depictions of dreams and tribal stories.  Whenever you purchase a large enough yarn painting, the narrative by the artist is usually attached to the back.

Artes de Mexico is a periodical published in Mexico with beautiful illustrations – the issue on Huichol Art is definitely worth having – I bought mine in Morelia for only $18 and they are sometimes offered on E-Bay.  Here is a link to one you can buy on for $30.

Here is a list of children’s books – ,many are illustrated with Huichol Art:

Finally, a word about design – the Mexican designer team of Pineda-Covalin have included Huichol Art in their length line of fabric and clothing. You will need to go to the site, and look at the flash catalog.  Awesome!

Arriving at the John C. Campbell Folk School


So, here I am in my cozy room for 6 – women, that is – sleeping dorm-style.  I have forgotten my toothbrush, but not my toothpaste.  So, I used my finger.  I hope I can sleep – I don’t think it will be a problem.

I am housed in the main HQ – the Keith House.  That is where all of the social gatherings happen, and where there is wi-fi.  I don’t even have to go downstairs to access it – I can get it in my room.  My classroom is in the basement.  The dining hall is a short walk away.  It is ironic, because the Campbell School campus is pretty large, and I expected to have to walk all over the place to get to class, to eat, and to go to functions.

Now, I don’t have to exert myself at all.  But I will – I have to walk off all of the pecan pie I ate tonight.  I also want to see the place, not just one building.

I got here at about 3:30 PM and checked in.  I lugged my stuff upstairs and picked out a bed.  I was going to choose a window bed, but opted for one nearer the ceiling fan and right across from the bathroom instead.  After cooling down a bit and meeting my new roomies, we had a meeting downstairs.  There are a lot of people here – a full house – all taking various classes in arts, crafts, music, and woodworking.

There is also a large contingent of mostly men who are here to raise a new building.  It will be the new blacksmith shop.  They have come from all around to add to their “timber-raising” experience.

After the meeting, we went to dinner.  In camp tradition, we sang our blessing – “Make New Friends”.  There was a marinated salad, meat loaf, heavy brown bread, and mashed potatoes.  Dessert was the aforementioned pecan pie.  It was all very good.

Our instructors met with us from about 6:30 to 9:00 PM, and we introduced ourselves.  There are 10 students in our class, which will center on printmaking and bookmaking.  We did a little preliminary cutting using an eraser.  I carved my initials, and learned that it is easy to take too much off!  That’s okay – I am just learning and I got a good print before I went crazy with the knife.

Now, I’m going to sign off and get some sleep.

Cordel Art of Brazil


I have recently gone on a Brazilian kick.  I almost bought a ticket to visit there, even.  On last Friday, I was doing a random check on airfare and found out it was only $525 RT to Sao Paolo!  I have friends who have relatives there, and was waiting to find out if anyone would be home.  (Interestingly enough, that was more important than waiting for the “go ahead” signal from my hubby…).  Alas, by the time I got an answer, the airfare had shot up to $760.  Dang!  You snooze, you lose.

So I have had to satisfy my urges by visiting my local Brazilian grocery.  There, I bought two savory pastries, one called coxinha and the other was a Brazilian kibbeh concoction called quibe.  I loved the former – a lovely chicken croquette with crispy bread crumbs on the outside (Here is a recipe link).  The kibbeh was too salty.  I also bought a square of orange colored cake with a cocoa icing.  I gave that to my Brazilian co-worker because I am supposed to be on a diet.

The main cultural aspect of Brazil that I have been researching is called cordel literature, or literatura de cordel. (from “Literatura de cordel” (string literature) are pamphlets or booklets that hang from a piece of string (cordel) in the places where they are sold. These are long, narrative poems with woodcut illustrations on the cover, often done by the poet himself. There are traditional themes (romances, fantastic stories, animal fables, religious traditions) and themes based on current events, famous people, life in the cities, etc.  Cordel literature can be hilarious and very racy, too.”

Here is an article on electronic cordel literature.

Here are photos of cordel displays in Brazil.

The poetry of d.s. levy, which follows the cordel form.

Article on literature de cordel on

Another piece on cordel literature.

Brazilian Collection and information site on Cordel Literature (in Portuguese).
Acrobat file on native poetry forms of the Americas – first page is on cordel literature.
Arizona State University professor’s article on his cordel collection.

Lesson Plan:  Stories on a String from

Article on a family day at a San Angelo Texas museum focusing on Brazilian culture.

Another Event: the Green Cordel Festival May 2009

Galleries with Brazilian Woodcuts:
Indigo Arts
A Hopeful Madness
Mariposa Arts
Tesoros Trading Company – You can even buy Cordel Literature by J. Borges

Books about Cordel Literature:
Lampion and his Bandits – English Version of Cordel literature legend, Lampion – a sort of Brazilian Robin Hood.
Stories on a String – by Candace Slater – very important resource.

Jorge Amado: New Critical Essays
Article in Callaloo Journal
The Cambridge History of Latin American Literature by Roberto González Echevarría, Enrique Pupo-Walker

That’s just the beginning.  One of the reasons I am going to the John C. Campbell School is to learn a bit about woodcut printing!

I’m going back to camp!


I just signed up for a class at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Georgia! Yay! I had been thinking hard about whether or not I should go, and now, I am going! My mother and aunt have gone in the past – it is not that far from Atlanta.

The class I am taking (unless they contact me and tell me it’s full…) is called Print It! Book It! and it is taught by Gay Bryant and Bob Meadows. Here is the class description:

“Enjoy working in related disciplines, learning the art of block printing, and then incorporating the prints in several handmade books to showcase them. Explore how to create images, transfer them to blocks, carve them, and pull prints. Then it’s on to binding the prints into books designed to preserve them. Want more? Create boxes to hold and protect the books. It’s layers upon layers of art! All levels welcome.”

Doesn’t that sound fun? The class, I think is only for five days, but I will arrive on Sunday and leave the following Saturday. I have chosen to live “dorm” style, in a room with 4 to 6 beds – it was the least expensive option. All meals are included. I am waiting for the supply list – that will probably be extra.
Here is what a typical week looks like, according to the website:

Arrival:  On Sunday afternoon you will register, settle into your room and then attend an orientation meeting to learn everything you need to know for a joyful and enlivening Folk School experience; after a welcome dinner, you’ll meet your instructor and classmates for a short session in the studio.

Class Day:  Coffee (make that Diet Coke for me!)  and the morning papers are available in Keith House starting at 6:30 a.m. You can choose to join a guided morning walk or explore the Folk School trail system on your own; attend Morningsong, a Danish custom of music, singing and storytelling led by a different performer each morning; or wait to start your day with a hearty breakfast at 8:15 (oh, yes, on second thought, that probably will be me!).

Class sessions are held from 9:00 to 12:00 and after lunch from 1:30 to 4:30. For most classes there is also optional studio time in the evening. Classes are usually limited to 12 students or less, and are designed by the instructor to include a combination of demonstrations, individual instruction and time to work at your own pace in a non-competitive environment.

Meals:  Three delicious meals are served family style each day in the Olive Dame Campbell Dining Hall and offer a substantial menu, including homemade breads and produce from the Folk School’s gardens. There is always a vegetarian selection and special diets can be accommodated. Fresh fruit, bread and peanut butter are available throughout the day.

Activities:  Optional activities are scheduled each day in the late afternoon and after dinner, giving you a range of choices. Learn to contra dance, attend a concert, poetry reading or blacksmithing demonstration, or visit a local artist’s studio. Take a break from class and get a chair massage or participate in a yoga session. Each week’s activity schedule is a little different, but there’s no doubt you’ll find many options to your liking.

You are also free to explore our beautiful 300-acre campus in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, visit other studios, shop in the Craft Shop, relax with a book in the Library, visit the History Center to learn more about the school’s fascinating story, Appalachian culture and folklore, or, just sit awhile on a porch rocker or in a swing.

Ending the Week:  Friday marks the end of the class week with a student exhibition and closing ceremony in Keith House. During this informal presentation, you can admire the work of each class displayed on tables and the stage in Keith House, sample creations from the cooking class and listen to melodies played by members of the music class. Departure is Friday afternoon for five-night weeks and Saturday morning for six-night weeks.

I will certainly miss my husband and dog, but I am looking forward to focusing on myself and on my art for a week!  No more pencils, no more books, no more students’ dirty looks!  Ha!