In 1985 in a small village --a three hour drive North of Oaxaca City, Mexico-- Elvis and Arturo Castillo began creating whimsical hand-carved and hand-painted figures known as "alebrijes" or Oaxacan Woodcarvings.
Following in the footsteps of their father, Jaime Castillo, (who is now mostly blind) Elvis and Arturo carved out their own niche in this traditional Oaxacan artistry. Their creations have become well known across the globe for the incredible attention to detail, ever-evolving style and unparalleled, museum-quality workmanship. Since 1985, Elvis and Arturo have visited and exhibited in a list of locations that includes:
Eastern shore of Maryland (Salisbury University)
The Castillos primarily sell their creations at Casa Manos Alegres in La Villita, San Antonio, Texas. They do not sell to any galleries within Mexico, preferring to export solely to the United States. The brothers can be found exhibiting 3 to 4 times per year in San Antonio, their schedule can be found by visiting their website at http://www.alebrijescastillo.com/calendar.php.
Each piece is hand-carved from copal wood (some of the very large pieces are sometimes carved from cedar as well). They are then hand-painted with an acrylic paint. Many of the carvings have pieces that can be removed for travel. (fingers, toes, tails, ears, horns, etc). The many colors and shadings are often applied using thousands of tiny dots, in a pointillist style. The small dots are applied by using the tip of a cactus needle. The brothers also hand-make many of their brushes, often from a small bit of hair from their pet cats (which give it up very willingly and which causes them no harm).
The Castillos are animal lovers and nature lovers. They use only a few copal trees each year, and plant approximately 75 to 100 in their place.
The smaller alebrijes can take anywhere from 2 hours each to carve and then 5 hours to paint. The larger pieces can range anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to carve and 20-25 hours to paint. The artform is very time-consuming, but the end-result is always magical and beautiful. Collectors love their work and are always eager to see their evolving style in the latest creations.
Elvis and Arturo each have their own families. Elvis and his wife, Claudia, have two boys: Said and Elvis Jr. Arturo and his wife, Patty, have a son, Marco, and a daughter, Laura. They all live in San Martin Toxpalan, Oaxaca, Mexico. Their museum-quality creations are a family affair. While Elvis and Arturo create the majority of the whimsical Castillo alebrijes, some of their family members help out from time to time as well. Their father Jaime, their brother Omar, and Arturo's son, Marco are all contributors.