I took the pleasure of about an hour in the afternoon to visit a friend and her shop: Lisa DiGioia-Nutini, owner of Mexico Lindo, in Squirrel Hill in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
If ever a store could overwhelm me, Mexico Lindo is the one. I am aggressively confronted upon entering with a riot of bright, bold primary and secondary colors and fantastical animals of all sorts and no sorts, flowers, faces, beads, masks, embroidery, weaving…all handmade, each item individually chosen, fairly purchased and carefully carried back from Mexico by Lisa and her husband, Jean-Pierre.
Faced with the florid creativity of a lively and imaginative culture combined with the loving hand of two people to bring it to us in the chill Northeast on a rainy spring day, it’s pointless to try to converse with me until I’ve had at least one pass around the store and come up for air.
These fanciful animals are Alebrijes, hand-carved and hand-painted animals in styles unique to each artist. Patterns vary from whimsical to geometric to highly detailed and stylized, colors from natural to bold primary or tropical combinations, and shapes from representational to mythical.
While carving and painting are traditional to Mexican culture as they are to most cultures, the genesis of the alebrijes in particular was around the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, developing over the past 20 years or so. You can read more about them on the Mexico Lindo website.
Of course, though, I am looking for cat figures, especially knowing that Lisa is a fellow cat person, and I find plenty, tiny, tall, curvy, unique, all with prominent tails.
This tiny, fragile “skeleton kitty” figure is especially touching. That may seem macabre, but the Dia de los Muertos celebrations each November share with us the concept of celebrating our loved ones who have passed because they are still a part of our lives; the little skeleton kitty would be well for your ofrenda to remember them at that time of year.
Here is another shelf of alebrijes and other figures. The photos hardly do justice to the careful and colorful display in the shop—in fact, I found myself for once without a camera and borrowed Lisa’s; she was kind enough to e-mail me the ones I’d taken.
Oh, yes, there are humans in there too!As I look at each of these figures, my hands can feel the carving tools, I visualize colors and patterns; it’s been so many years since I’ve done anything like this, but if I ever find myself with some time on my hands I know where to go for inspiration.
And lest you think Alebrijes are the only things she carries, here is the delectable jewelry case, lots of silver and both modern and traditional styling in the jewelry.
Here is a close-up of the dog in the jewelry case.
And here is the wall above the green shelf with beaded masks and scenes.
And here is Lisa herself with a cat figure.
I’ve known Lisa for years, and she’s another like my friend Deb Chebatoris who was working and an entirely different job but carrying the dream of doing something different and deeply meaningful. About ten years ago after my brother’s traumatic brain injury I was looking for the best program and living situation for him, and Lisa’s compassion and guidance were instrumental in finding the best care for him. I was truly saddened when she told me she was leaving her position to open this shop, but he and I managed well with the start she gave us and I could never deny Lisa’s happiness and dedication to this dream.
As I mentioned above, you can find information about Lisa’s shop, Mexico Lindo, on her website. You can also find out more about alebrijes and the artists who create them, and view a gallery of them and other merchandise in the shop and even do some shopping if you’re so inclined. I’ve only focused on the feline- and animal-themed things, but there is handmade clothing, weavings, accessories, paper cuttings, chocolate and other sweets, more than I can list. In fact, please do visit—Lisa’s photography of her merchandise is stunning, and I’ve hardly done the merchandise itself justice!