The historic city of Salamanca, Mexico, is home to a fascinating blend of Indigenous and colonial architecture, music, and artwork. Multi-talented couple, Elisa Ayala and Josué Castro are both the first in their families to become artists, and their meticulously crafted, handmade toys captivate the young and the young-at-heart. Their vibrant sculptures feature cheerful saints, dancing Catrinas, costumed luchadores, and devils battling dragons—some of which can be put into motion with the twist of a knob.
Elisa’s work consists of mobiles, dolls, piñatas, and Catrinas. She combines traditional Mexican themes with unusual designs that feature big eyes and colorful elements. Her dolls capture figures in faithfully-rendered Indigenous costumes performing traditional dances. Josué applies techniques he learned as a mechanical engineer to construct automata/cam toys. His figures, which require precise attention to detail in order to move effectively, also incorporate traditional Mexican colors and themes. Both artists work with almost exclusively with recycled material to create their artworks in cartonería, Mexican papier mâché, which are then brightly colored with acrylic paint.
In the rich world of international folk art, few kinds of handmade art offer as much pure delight as Elisa’s dolls and Josue’s automata. The pair produce clever and colorful works that can be appreciated by contemporary art collectors and that promote the artists’ proud Mexican heritage and traditions.