An intricately decorated coyote is painstakingly hand carved and painted by the Fuentes family.
The art of making wood sculpted alebrijes (Mexican folk art sculptures) has been in Efraín Fuentes’ family for three generations. He began carving wood under his father Epifanio’s supervision when he was a mere seven years old! His wife Silvia Gómez, herself an artisan from San Martín Tilcajete, hand paints the alebrijes that Efraín and their four children carve from single pieces of wood.
Various woods, including walnut, copal, cedar, sabino and even tree roots, are used to carve each piece, which can take days depending on the design’s complexity. Jackalopes, coyotes, birds, sacred hearts and fantastical creatures are fair game in the world of alebrijes. After carving, the wood is naturally dried, sanded, wiped down with a special liquid to ward off any insects, filled where necessary, sanded again and then painstakingly hand painted. Alebrijes are usually brightly coloured, often with tiny indigenous codices or symbols in tidy rows. Most people who buy a piece, will carefully wrap and transport it in carry-on luggage. You can also have your piece wrapped by Efraín and Silvia and sent to your home by a parcel delivery service.
If you’re bringing a handcrafted piece home, the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) will not charge any duty on mass produced work where the design is repeated without much variance in style. As a general rule, original paintings, drawings and pastels are duty free. Sculptures and carvings may be subject to duty. If you make a purchase at a gallery, they will take care of shipping with the requisite paperwork and advance notice of duties. It’s always best to check first.