Each year Julia travels to Mexico at least once where she immerses herself in Mexican culture and hand-picks beautifully crafted jewelry, ceramics, textiles, and other folk art for Eye’s Gallery. Her return is always greatly anticipated, as new treasures and old friends pour in to replenish and repopulate the floors and walls of the shop. This year’s summer buying trip had an additional, special component to its mission. Over the years, pieces of folk art used in her husband Isaiah’s mosaics at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens have been damaged for various reasons, mostly due to exposure. A preservation team has been working hard to maintain the integrity of the mosaicked visionary environment. Julia and Isaiah set out this year to reconnect with many of their longtime favorite artists and craftspeople, and to ensure that these relationships hold fast by way of introductions to Emily Smith, Executive Director at the Magic Gardens, and her team. The group traveled to Oaxaca first, where they met with master ceramicists Angelica Vasquez Cruz and Irma Blanco in the town of Santa Maria Atzompa. Julia recounted how wonderful it was catching up with these two, and a joy to see how they have prospered over the years since they first met.
Next they traveled to Ocotlán de Morelos, where they visited the famous Josefina and her sister, Concepción Aguilar. After many years of making her ceramic figurines, which she calls muñecas or dolls, Josefina is now blind. She still sculpts the forms herself, but her children are now responsible for painting her creations.
In San Bartolo Coyotepec, the home of Mexico’s barro negro or black clay pottery, they stopped to watch a craftsman prepare fireworks sculptures.
In Oaxaca City, the group visited the vibrant, bustling markets, the creative hubs of the country’s folk art and handicraft traditions, where they made many purchases you can now see on display and for sale at the Eye’s Gallery.
From Oaxaca they went on to Cuernavaca, Morelos, “the City of Eternal Spring,” where they visited the Museo Robert Brady, housed in the one time home of the artist and folk art collector. Julia felt right at home, as this museum shares a kindred aesthetic with Eye’s Gallery.
Their final stop, Mexico City, brought more markets and a special visit with their good friend and ours, master papier-mâché artist Joel Garcia.
All in all, the trip was successful, and everyone enjoyed themselves enormously!