Paper Mache that Slays

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Ruiz and Garcia Create Love in Life and Art

When one strolls through the fabulous Puerto Vallarta Saturday Olas Altas market the artwork of Mauricio Vargas Ruiz and Alberto Trejo Garcia is sure to catch your eye. 

This Vallarta couple practices artistic recycling and creates handmade whimsical and colorful paper mache animals, flowers, jewelry, and platters

Their beautiful array of products range from small take-home souvenirs at $250 pesos to larger home décor works of art for $1,750 pesos.
Their beautiful array of products range from small take-home souvenirs at $250 pesos to larger home décor works of art for $1,750 pesos. Photo by Oscar Almeida.

The artists met in their home city of León in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato. On their very first date in December 2003, it was love at first sight and Mauricio asked Beto to move to Vallarta with him. Almost twenty years later they are still here – and still a couple in life and in art.

Mauricio was originally a civil engineer, but a friend who was a professional puppeteer arrived in Leon for a major art fair with his luggage and all his puppets missing, so Mauricio and friends came together to learn the art of paper mache from a master. They worked feverishly for the next few days to help him replace all the lost work and the big transition from engineer to artist was born.

The process itself is fascinating. 

Mauricio Vargas Ruiz and Alberto Trejo Garcia's artwork is sure to catch the eye. This Vallarta couple practices artistic recycling and creates handmade whimsical and colorful paper mache animals, flowers, jewelry, and platters. Photo by Oscar Almeida.
Mauricio Vargas Ruiz and Alberto Trejo Garcia’s artwork is sure to catch the eye. This Vallarta couple practices artistic recycling and creates handmade whimsical and colorful paper mache animals, flowers, jewelry, and platters. Photo by Oscar Almeida.

Mauricio explains that the first step is gathering cardboard egg cartons from the local mercados. At their workshop the cartons are cut into pieces and soaked in water for 24 hours, then smashed by hand on cement. Glue, flour, and lime are then added to make the paste that is now ready to be applied to the original plaster molds they create. Then each piece is sanded and painted with a white base coat before applying an array of bright colors and a coat of varnish. Sometimes they leave the art unpainted so that the black and white newspaper copy is the star of a more rustic creation, such as their line of cheeky chihuahuas, but they say it is their bright tropical color palette that attracts the buyers to their wares.

When asked his favourite animal to create, Mauricio shares that it is the humble frog “because Mother Nature makes frogs of all colors, some beautiful and some scary.” 

Other favorite works include a series of owls, some in tecolote (traditional Aztec), and others in more modern Mexican buho style. 

Their beautiful array of products range from small take-home souvenirs at $250 pesos to larger home décor works of art for $1,750 pesos. The average price of their pieces is $400 to $600 pesos. Tourists love the easy travel items like earrings, pendants and the smaller animals, while many new Vallarta residents are buying the bigger pieces to display in their condos. 

Mauricio Vargas Ruiz and Alberto Trejo Garcia's artwork is sure to catch the eye. This Vallarta couple practices artistic recycling and creates handmade whimsical and colorful paper mache animals, flowers, jewelry, and platters. Photo by Oscar Almeida.
Mauricio Vargas Ruiz and Alberto Trejo Garcia. Photo by Oscar Almeida.

Mauricio and Alberto, like many, had a rough time during the pandemic but they say those struggles resulted in them becoming even more creative and made them stronger. 

They hope to soon resume teaching workshops for others to learn the art of paper mache and would love to hear from a gallery that is interested in displaying and selling their creations. 

You can preview their work on Facebook at Papelmache2013 or on Instagram at papiermachepv

Even better, go and visit them in person at the Olas Altas Farmer’s Market in Lázaro Cárdenas Park where you will find them every Saturday from early November to mid-May.

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