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Download Crafting Tradition: The Making and Marketing of Oaxacan Wood Carvings (Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture) epub

by Michael Chibnik

Since the mid-1980s, whimsical, brightly colored wood carvings from the Mexican state of Oaxaca have found their way into gift shops and private homes across the United States and Europe, as Western consumers seek to connect with the authenticity and tradition represented by indigenous folk arts. Ironically, however, the Oaxacan wood carvings are not a traditional folk art. Invented in the mid-twentieth century by non-Indian Mexican artisans for the tourist market, their appeal flows as much from intercultural miscommunication as from their intrinsic artistic merit.

In this beautifully illustrated book, Michael Chibnik offers the first in-depth look at the international trade in Oaxacan wood carvings, including their history, production, marketing, and cultural representations. Drawing on interviews he conducted in the carving communities and among wholesalers, retailers, and consumers, he follows the entire production and consumption cycle, from the harvesting of copal wood to the final purchase of the finished piece. Along the way, he describes how and why this "invented tradition" has been promoted as a "Zapotec Indian" craft and explores its similarities with other local crafts with longer histories. He also fully discusses the effects on local communities of participating in the global market, concluding that the trade in Oaxacan wood carvings is an almost paradigmatic case study of globalization.

Download Crafting Tradition: The Making and Marketing of Oaxacan Wood Carvings (Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Series in Latin American and   Latino Art and Culture) epub
ISBN: 0292712480
ISBN13: 978-0292712485
Category: Photography
Subcategory: History & Criticism
Author: Michael Chibnik
Language: English
Publisher: University of Texas Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2003)
Pages: 304 pages
ePUB size: 1413 kb
FB2 size: 1617 kb
Rating: 4.2
Votes: 403
Other Formats: lrf mbr rtf azw

A very nice book. Buy it. I think all will enjoy its contents.
Very average. Not well written. Wouldn't recommend.
Some errors.
Anyone interested in Mexican folk art will have noticed the brightly-painted animals, people, and alebrijes (fantastic imaginary critters) featured in many Mexican-oriented gift shops. Michael Chibnik's book is an excellent introduction to the socioeconomics of the craft. These figures are produced in only four villages, all in central Oaxaca. The people who make them have varying degrees of Zapotec heritage, but are mostly Spanish-speaking. They are now used to dealing with international buyers; this is a global age, and the sight of a rich, sophisticated buyer in an adobe-and-pole home in a remote Oaxaca village occasions no surprise. Chibnik follows items on their odyssey from such homes to the elite art stores of Oaxaca and the United States.
Chibnik stresses the newness of the craft. True, but Oaxaca has a very old tradition of superb and imaginative woodcarving, previously applied to shrines, masks, and local utility goods. It not only produced the skills, it provided an existing market structure. This Chibnik fails to address.
Some points in the book deserve expansion. First, aid and development workers interested in small enterprise development should very definitely read it. It chronicles, very thoroughly, a spectacularly successful bit of local initiative and creativity. The villagers not only invented this craft; they have kept improving it steadily. Woodworking expands, diversifies, and gets more creative; meanwhile, the people themselves get rapidly more sophisticated in business. Chibnik provides very detailed accounts of the economics of the craft, from the price of wood (fortunately, a common sort of tree is used) to the markups in Tucson and Los Angeles art galleries.
This sort of value-added bootstrapping is rare in Mexico (and elsewhere). It should be encouraged. Thousands of well-meant development initiatives, pushed by outsiders, have failed; here we have an excellent study of one that was strictly local initiative and that succeeded. Chibnik does not explicitly target small enterprise development experts, but they are the people who really should be reading this book with great care.
Second, this is good art. Chibnik quotes, without much comment, some sadly snobbish statements to the effect that this stuff is "commercial" and thus automatically low. As if Rembrandt, Michelangelo and Monet weren't commercial artists! Come on, scholars--good art is usually made with at least one eye toward an audience willing to pay for it. Chibnik is generally silent on the quality of pieces and why it matters, though he does make some judgements. Yet, discussion of quality--why people really like some pieces and find others dull--should be a natural part of an economic study. Anthropologists and economists tend to be skeptical (or downright cynical) about quality judgements, but such judgements are a fact of life, and do structure the market. They should be directly addressed.
As noted by an earlier reviewer, this book is rather underillustrated. Given that there is only one other book about the craft (and it rather short), one would hope that, some day, a full art-critical study of the carvings will be produced.
The same earlier reviewer found the style dry. I disagree. Maybe I'm just used to academia, but I find this a very well-written and readable book. It is mercifully free from the jargon usual in economic studies and art criticism. I found it engaging and hard to put down. Highly recommended to anyone with a serious interest in the socioeconomic side of folk art.
This book is for everyone whose appreciation for Oaxacan woodcarvings goes beyond the sinewy shapes and pretty colors. If you have ever wished you could go to Oaxaca to meet the carvers in person, this book is for you. If you have ever wondered how your favorite carvers work, wanted to know what their toolkits look like, or wished you could watch them paint, then this book is for you. Yes, this is a serious book written by an anthropology professor for an academic audience. But it also offers the collector a welcome glimpse into the lives of the carvers and their families. No, this book does not romanticize the Oaxacan woodcarvers or the "history" of their craft. But it does describe how a people who lived in poverty were able to improve their lot in life by using their hands to create folk art that is sold to customers in a high-tech world thousands of miles away.
I admit I was almost scared off when in Chapter One the author mentioned Lenin, since I would be more likely to read a book that quotes John Lennon than Vladimir Lenin. Fortunately I read on, for this book took me where I've wanted to go for some time - to Oaxaca. In Chapter Four the author takes you into the woodcarving villages and in Chapter Five he tells you how carving families have benefited financially in varying degrees from their participation in the woodcarving process. Chapter Six is all about how it's done - the nuts and bolts (or branches and sandpaper, so to speak) of how a carving goes from a copal tree to a finished carving in the hands of the carving families. (As a woodcarver myself, this was fascinating.) The chapter on Specialization was very interesting - and the following chapter on How Artisans Attain Success was also intriguing. Again, these chapters offered a look inside the Oaxacan woodcarving craft that most people would never see. The chapters on sales in Oaxaca and the United States were unexpectedly worthwhile reading as well.
One reviewer compared this book to a magician walking onstage and telling you how the trick is done. For me, however, the "magic in the trees" has always been the magical energy that sparked the Oaxacan woodcarvers to use their creativity to make something that can be appreciated for its artistic beauty but that can also bring a better quality of life to the carvers and their families in the woodcarving villages.
Buy the Shepard Barbash book (Oaxacan Woodcarving - the Magic in the Trees) for its pictures and alluring text. Buy this book (Crafting Tradition by Michael Chibnik) for the story behind the story. Both books are indispensable to anyone who has a passion for Oaxacan woodcarvings.
This book is about as exactly as the title says. It discusses the development and marketing of this craft. Some parts a little dry and redundant but, it conveys what the title says. Good for somebody who is very interested in the craft of Oaxacan wood carvings.