Wood Animalitos - Oaxacan Folk Art

Submitted by: Linda Wood, St. John's Lower School, Houston, Texas
Unit: Sculpture - Assemblage - Art of Mexico
Lesson Plan: Wood Animalitos
Grade Level: Elementary through middle school (these are 5th grade)


Alebrijes: These wooden creatures of the imagination are called Alebrijes. (ali-bre-haze). In Mexico in the state of Oaxaca, they are made from Copal wood which is native to Oaxaca, Mexico. In Mexico, Alebrijes are carved by the artist and often painted by family members. You won't find Alebrijes that are the same because they aren't mass produced or created in a mold. These assemblages were made by assembling wood scraps and taking great care in painting the details.


Alebrijes - Oaxacan Woodcarving - El Caracol Zapoteca Fine Oaxacan. Woodcarving Gallery. These are some of the finest examples I have seen. Beautiful details - nice close up views. Educational site (as well as commercial). This gallery does give art teachers permission to use images provided you send them email first. If you want only a few - Fair Use guidelines are permitted.


Tips and suggestions from Linda Woods:

I bought a sheet of 3/4 inch (1.9 cm) plywood and had our maintenance department cut up the pieces for the backs. I had wooden boards in 12 inch by 8 inch (30.5 x 20.3 cm) , 6x6 (15 x 15 cm) squares, 8x10 (20 x 25.5 cm), and a bunch of random sizes. Next year I am going to buy 1x2 or some molding for the legs and let him slice those up too, in various lengths, for legs and necks.


1 2

3       4

It's cheaper and if you buy the precut long length sets, you will spend forever trying to match them all up to sizes before your kids get to them. I will cut legs into 2", 3", 5", 7", 10" and 12" (5, 7.6, 12.7, 17.7, 25.4, 30.5 cm) lengths, bundled up in groups of 4, totaling about 76 sets for my 60 kids. I will subdivide those sets into three groups with a full range of sizes... one for each class. Go heavier on the 5-10 inch (12.7 - 25.4 cm) sets than on the 2,3,and 12 inch (5, 7.6, and 30.5 cm) sets. Some kids may have to make due with what is left, but you will get a lot of variety, and they will be forced to think about how to make it work. Also, buy lots of Sax little pieces, turned ends, and if they have any round pieces, try to buy some of those. It's hard to know what to buy, just get more than you think you need. (Note from Judy: Left over pieces can always be used in a Louise Nevelson assemblage sculpture - none will go to waste)


5 6


7       8


We used Sax Ultra Plus tempera (Sax is no longer in existence. A good substitute would be Tempera Paint.) on those Oaxacan. Wooden Animals. The colors of that paint are incredibly brilliant and the texture is like acrylic. One coat covered anything! The animals are various sizes, depending on how long the legs are, how long a neck, what size back they choose. Size did not seem to make that much difference. For example, one girl made a WONDERFUL little winged mouse.


Julia - It was the smallest one, but she took such time with her patterns that she finished about when everyone else did. Hers is one of my favorites. You could keep it small and have kids make bugs, etc.  I ordered just about every scrap box available (wood) from Sax. On some of the scrap boxes I ordered three of each. The legs were 2", 3", 5" 7", 9" and 12" (5, 7.6, 12.7, 17.7, 23, 30.5 cm) lengths. I had them bundled in groups of four before the kids got to them. I also had a miter saw/box and some kids angled their leg ends to make giraffe like creatures. Linda also had a drill, a vise, and some coping frame saws.


9 10


11       12


Note from Judy: When I did this with kids at local art resource center - I went to every mill and lumber shop in town and filled boxes with their scraps. I cut down some shapes -and left others as is. I cut strips of wood for legs (taped four strips together) cutting four legs at a time. The tape held them together in sets. Kids weren't locked into those sets - I let them miss-match if needed. I got freebie latex paint for our base coats (then we accented with good acrylics). I was working on zero budget for my class - so all materials had to be donated. I supplied a lot of the materials myself.



Add to or Comment on this Page: