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Silvia Julian

Artisan Organization: Silvia Julian

Country: Mexico

"With each one of my sculptures, I want to convey a part of my personality and feelings.

"I was born in a small town in Oaxaca. I craft our traditional alebrije sculptures — colorful and fantastical creatures, painted by hand. I've always been fascinated by this folkloric art form, more than anything for their incredible colors and their perfectly detailed designs.

"I learned by myself, with nothing more than practice and faith in my abilities. I began to design my own ideas and even my daughters got excited about this work. Together, we learned that practice and, especially, the disciplined hand are our best friends in any project. This helped us relax and enjoy our work.

"I love the worth each one of our alebrijes has for us. We transmit a part of our human essence through an object and, for us, it's incredible. We love the challenge of surpassing ourselves.

"The origin of alebrije art is attributed to Pedro Linares. When he was 30, he became seriously ill, fell into a sort of coma and had a most fantastic dream. Caught between the land of the living and the dead, he saw himself in a forest populated with creatures whose body parts belonged to different animals. They repeatedly cried, 'Alebrije! Alebrije!' When Linares awakened, he recreated these figures in vivid colors and called them alebrijes.

"When I began this incredible project, I faced the challenge of learning to believe in myself, in my ideas, and to convey this sense of confidence to my daughters. I had to create the habit of looking at each idea that came to mind, analyzing it and working it until I feel certain that we're capable of creating it.

"Each member of the family focuses on the activity he or she is most skilled at. My husband sands and finishes the sculpture, while my daughters and I prepare the wood so it can then be painted.

"My work has let me generate jobs for people from other communities and has also let me be closer to my family. I'm able to share the excitement of achieving goals and dreams with others. I teach them that the key is discipline.

"We hope to see our workshop grow. We want to consolidate every aspect of our work, from the initial inspiration to the finished alebrije.""