Logo in header



Winning a competition is a shot of adrenalin and a boost to the ego. Every artist craves such encouragement. However, when winning comes with a dollar prize of $1,000 - - as is the case in FOFA's Young Artists' Competition - - the winner's pleasure expands. By the same token, FOFA's investment in their talents and careers multiplies.

In the 2013 Competition, winners in six categories were invited to spell out their needs and their dreams. Tell us your sueños (dreams), FOFA said, and give us a budget. We'll help you continue your development. Three of the six artists indicated materials they needed to further their work. The other three, Víctor Bustamante Herrera, Fabiola Contreras Sosa, and Víctor Fabián Ortega let themselves imagine various kinds of assistance that would enhance and deepen their skills. Their sueños involved teachers, mentors, partnerships and exposure to the best work being done in their fields. Their sueños involved contracts, budget-making, and wider horizons. Dreaming, with the help in Oaxaca of FOFA Advisory Board Member, Dr. Lucille Atkin, and staff members of the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular Oaxaca (MEAPO, or Oaxaca State Museum of Popular Art), they experimented and grew in confidence.  Here are their stories.


Víctor Bustamante Herrera

Víctor Bustamante Herrera, winner in "Woodcarving," wasn't looking to improve his technique as a woodcarver. His skill with a knife and sense of form, according to Maestro Carlomagno Pedro Martínez, master ceramicist and Director of MEAPO, are already very well developed. What this 30-year-old artist wanted was to learn about marketing his work and making a living as a woodcarver. And that's no small dream.

At the studio of Jacobo Ángeles Ojeda, master woodcarver of San Martín Tilcajete, he worked, as is his habit, from old tree trucks. While he ordinarily prefers natural wood, he took advantage of the mentorship with another master ceramicist, Don José García of the pueblo of San Antonino, to explore adding pottery and painting to his woodcarving repertoire. Painting on wood, which he initially found quite difficult, turned out very well, he reported. Indeed, this challenge - - and others - - felt good.

 Víctor is enjoying branching out. As part of his mentorship project, he learned how to cure and preserve wood. He enjoyed his first serious encounter with pigments as well as a special class on natural paints; and he has become acquainted with new tools for woodcarving. He also learned from his mentors how to dig up and prepare clay. In April 2014, at a fair in his native pueblo of Miahuatlán, he successfully exhibited a new piece. Now he is giving classes in Miahuatlán, using good local clay. His efforts, he feels, are helping to reinvigorate interest in ceramics in the pueblo.
Equally important for Víctor is the entrepreneurial side of his craft. He is now more professional in packing, presenting and selling his products. Newly designed business cards and a brochure have also helped him in the "marketplace." These freshly acquired skills have made him feel more confident, Víctor says. He dares to believe that he will be able to sell his products and earn a living from his art.


Fabiola Contreras Sosa

At the Textile Museum of Oaxaca, Fabiola Contreras Sosa, winner in "Textiles," is breaking new ground for herself. She has had a chance to inspect images of all the work in the Museum's collection and to select techniques she would like to learn. When she chose to begin with frivolite (tatting in English or embroidering lace), the Museum arranged a private workshop for her with Maestra Ligia.

In the Competition, Fabiola's prize-winning piece was a refined and delicate white-on-white blouse. Now color has entered her repertoire - and with it more drama. When she combines contrasting colors, her embroidered lace becomes beautifully vivid. Fabiola is excited by trial and error. Now she can make objects she sees on the internet and in magazines: makeup bags, for example, and wool purses with lace appliques. Color also delights her. The final product isn't always what she imagined, but that's not a problem for this artist.  "My new things are very pretty," she exclaims - "and more complicated, too."

Staff members at the Museum have been very encouraging. Her painstaking approach to the work delights them. They have given Fabiola a list of the kinds of products visitors are asking for and have promised to place her finished work in the Museum's shop. Fabiola will also be selling her textiles at her father's shop in Teotitlán.


Víctor Fabián Ortega

  Víctor Fabián Ortega, the winner in "Decorative Painting of Woodcarving," remembers playing with his older cousin Magdaleno as a child, but the two subsequently went their separate ways.  Magdaleno, now an accomplished painter of woodcarving and recipient of honorable mention in woodcarving in FOFA's 2011 and 2013 contests, welcomed the chance to mentor his talented cousin. But how would it work? Would the two be compatible?  While they were working in the same craft, each had his distinctive style and techniques.

To begin, each cousin made an emblematic piece - - displaying his procedures. Using paints from natural dyes, Víctor made a dragon. He worked slowly, paying close attention to Magdaleno's technique for cleaning out the insides of wooden figures. While they worked, they talked - - especially about their native village, San Martín Tilcajete. Their conversations led to a joint project: an intricate collage of symbols about the village, honoring its patron saint, San Martín, and incorporating "Tilcajete" into the work. "Til" stands for tinta de cochinilla (from worm-like insects that live on the prickly pear cactus leaves) and "Cajete" for a small stone mountain boasting a spring of fresh water. Together they found the "right" tree trunk, with very dry wood; and they included a dragon in the design in honor of the alebrijes (carved wood animals) that are the proud product of their pueblo.

It's been wonderful and surprisingly helpful, both cousins agreed. Each learned from the other - - including the pleasures of collaboration.  Víctor and Magdaleno will try to exhibit together, possibly at MEAPO. Based on this experience, Víctor hopes that other artesanos will also have opportunities to collaborate. His enthusiasm and new-found confidence are palpable. "We showed that it is possible to do the impossible," Víctor said.


Click on the link above to make a donation of any amount to support our valuable efforts. Thank you! 

www.fofa.us 718-859-1515 info@fofa.us  275 Central Park West, #1-C  New York, New York 10024