Ed Jordan is one of Austin, Texas’ most prolific Collectors of Mexican Folk Art. In February of 2007, El Interior had the privilege to visit at length with Ed at his Old West Austin neighborhood home. We photographed much of his collection and documented Ed’s descriptions of his fabulous displays, the pieces he treasured and had such an intimate connection with. We think you will enjoy our rerun of our very popular “Home Tour Series” with Ed Jordan!
Ed Jordan is a passionate collector with an incredible collection of folk art. There is so much to see in his wonderful old Austin home–it is a real treat to be able to tour it, which is why we are very pleased to be able to feature this fabulous collector this month!
Although it would be impossible for us to share ALL of his treasures with you, please go along with him while Ed takes you on a quick walk-through of his home.
While in Guadalajara putting together an art and antiques gallery for the magazine ‘EL ANTIQUARIO’, I visited the shops on Ave. Independencia in Tlaquepacque and spotted this interesting burgundy colored church which started it’s existence in Metepec, state of Mexico. I immediately purchased it then faced the problem of getting it to Austin. Friends from Houston finally carried it back to Texas in their truck and about a year later it was delivered to friends in Round Top and it eventually made it’s way to my marble top table as shown here.
The intricate Metepec tree of life in similar coloration, shown at the right, I found here in Austin as well as the two old candlesticks which are Tlaquepacque pieces. the small polychrome clay figures in front were given to me by a collector here in Austin as a gift. The large tin mirror is from the state of Guanajuato.
Cats, cats, cats! Amazing, endearing, clever, sly pusses abound in the aromatic clay felines made by the artisans of the Guadalajara suburb village of Tonala. My parent’s 1920’s carved wooden coffee table makes a great setting for these creatures. Dampen these hand-painted and burnished (brunida) clay objects and the earthy, pleasant aroma of the Tonalá clay fills the air.
I seem to be a Christmas person. In 2005, I put up this tree, the first artificial tree we ever had in this house, and I liked the results so much I have just left it up all year long. This is February 2007, and I see no reason to dismantle it, so guess it will stay up another year. I change the display of figures at the base several times during the year to keep my interest going. Ornaments are from my grandparents in Fredericksburg, WWII plastic, Neiman-Marcus, Wal-mart and small clay angels and animals from Metepec. A great mix which I never tire of admiring. Clay firgures at the base are all from the village of Santa Maria Aztompa outside of Oaxaca and either by or influenced by the Blanco family.
My Christmas tree decoration philosophy is obviously THE MORE THE MERRIER! Old family ornaments from the late 1800’s to the plastic designs of the l940’s and later ornate Christopher Radko’s Polish creations and then to my favorite Metepec clay angels and animals in soft pastel colors and as you can see in this photograph, an angel of carved wood painted with aniline dyes from La Union, Oaxaca and tiny brightly colored nativities from Peru. All of these, thickly layered on my tree and trimmed with tin and crystal icicles and red and white candy canes, give a richness and warmth to the holidays in my home.
My grandfather Jordan’s two piece desk from the family home in Fredericksburg displays a potpourri of inherited porcelain, clay Panduro market figures from Tlaquepacque, paper and tin-foil miniature churches from Poland, Imari vases, Waterford crystal and a collection of my family’s early 20th century fountain pens in old German glass and pewter tankards.
This eclectic display of, perhaps disparate, items just demonstrates the wonder of color, texture, variety and excitement anyone can add to their home decor, and in just a very small space. A lifetime capsule of treasures you can enjoy daily.
On top of the desk is tall Tlaquepacque dragon vase and two heavy red painted clay naked lady devils from somewhere in Mexico. In the center is an articulated highly painted wooden devil standing on a box with a rubber snake up his arm and over his shoulder. The colorful scenes are of the ‘animus’ or ‘souls in hell’ theme. Across his chest is written and I loosely translate, “This was done by me and my studio in remission of our sins but it is not as though we have killed anybody!” This piece was bought in Mexico City by a good friend and I had to have it.
The last picture to the right is a close up of my grandfather’s desk showing a white clay vase I bought in Sweden in the l950’s, Tlaquepacque market figures, glass and pewter German tankards and small saint figures from Mexico.
This is the display of Trees of Life in my living room.
I had no idea I had such a collection of Mexican Trees of Life (Arboles de la Vida) until I switched out a couple of tables in the living room and needed something to put on this one. Ha! I had trees all over the place I had just not noticed. This display consists of about 25 trees of various sizes and origin. Obviously, detail is lost per each one, but the overall effect of the display is what I wanted here. I really enjoy just standing and looking at this array. Basically, these trees come from three locales. 1. Metepec, state of Mexico 2. Izucar de Morelos, Puebla state and 3. Acatlan, Pueblo. Trees can orignate from places in Jalisco and Guerrero, but these three towns are the most prolific.
Lenore Hoag Mulryan, acclaimed writer on the subject of Mexican popular art, calls Naguals ‘Fantastic Animals in Mexican Ceramics’. The nagual is an imaginary magical being often with human attributes and good and evil aspects. Each of us supposedly possesses a nagual which can exert either a good or malevolent influence on our life. This photo shows a group of naguals I have lined up my stairway peering at my world throught the banister columns. I have told them they are welcome but not allowed into the rest of the room and they seem to abide by my edict peacefully, though i suspect one of them just caused me to fall off my step stool as i reached for an item on a shelf! Ms. Mulryan’s excellent book “NAGUAL IN THE GARDEN” is a must-read for any collector.
My pride and joy is this 3′ tall fantastic burnished clay creation by the master potter, HERON MARTINEZ MENDOZA of Acatlan de Osorio, Pueblo. El Interior sold this piece in l986 and I purchased it from that owner in 2003. I am a huge fan of Heron and never dreamed I would own one of his masterpieces. Wow! Now I do! Heron became well-known in the United States and in Europe but gained little fame in his native Mexico A couple of years ago I visited Acatlan and went into a civic building on the zocalo and saw two huge pieces by him. They were shoved in a corner and beneath them on the stone floor were broken shards that had fallen from each clay sculpture.
I asked a couple of giggling young ladies if i could buy them or anything else they might have like these and they said nothing was for sale. In a side room I found a large cardboard box filled with other Heron pieces all broken and just dumped in there. In my questionable Spanish, I did my best to tell the two young ladies about Heron and what a famous artist he was. They had never heard of him and thought I was just a funny old gringo. Depressing. But, I have managed to collect about 50 pieces attributed to Heron Martinez or his students. So that pleases me no end! My friend, former foreign service diplomat in Latin America, Lee Price Arellano, now of Llano, is writing an article about Heron Martinez and using some of my pieces to illustrate the article.
In my bedroom is a dresser from my grandparents home. The colorful clay figures on the top shelf are also by my favorite, Heron Martinez. I have been told that he created these figures and his wife Olivia Guzman Cruz painted the fanciful designs on them. On the side shelves are two matching Tlaquepacque bird vases. On the bottom, an assortment of items ranging from a carved wooden and painted figure of St. Martin de Porras by Augustin Cruz Prudencio of San Augustin de las Juntas, Oaxaca to an old bulto of a child with a missing arm. I am not sure of the origin of the several colorful and geometric design vases.
Below is a close up of the whimsical designs of Heron Martiinez Mendoza of Acatlan, Puebla. The female figures are probably from Tehuantepec or Juchitan in Oaxaca. The dresser serves me as a show place for all of these colorful pieces of Mexican popular art.
My devil corner with calacas, diablos and a large Judas figure. Most of these were created in Celaya, state of Guanajuato. On the floor beside the large Tlaquepacque dragon vase is a copper diablo from Guererro state. Behind this is a slipware platter from Tzintzuntzan near Lake Patzcuaro in Michoacan.
A collection of favorite pieces fill this red-orange bookshelf. The color was chosen to enhance the art to it’s best advantage. On the top shelf you can see a mariachi group and behind them two large santas, one is St. Martha, all from Ocumicho, a small town of amazing imagination and creativity near Zamora in the state of Michoacan. A green bird vase and figurines of animals from Tlaquepacque are on the next shelf and below is a collection of market figures also from Tlaquepacque. Below all this is a collection of fruit vases I purchased at a street market in Guadalajara. In front are wood and glass nichos filled with more market figures and a couple of Tedora Blanco figures. I put all this against an off-white shiplathe wall to enjoy the drama of all the exciting art and color.
This is a working idea for my bedroom wall. I have accumulated an assortment of nichos, wall plaques and similar things and here I was just seeing how they would look on the white walls. On the bedside table are two reverse painting santo pictures. The bed pillows have intricate molas from the San Blas Islands of Panama.
Shelves on another bookcase show two Aguilar figures with an animal from La Union and an old copper boat from Xochimilco and an old devil creation from Ocumicho. Books on the subject of Mexico and Mexican Popular Arts fill several book cases and I am constantly looking for more to learn from.
A view from my bedroom into the TV room. On the left are three painted copper masks from Guerrero which are really hard to find, unfortunately, and above the door is an assortment of Mexican art. The art on the left is a cloth painting made from fabrics collaged into a scene. Friends in Mexico say they have never seen one of these before. I have two which I found here in Austin at separate times in thrift stores.
Snakes are truly not my favorite creatures, so I am surprised to find a whole corner of my TV room is crawling with them! I am absolutely unsure of how this came about. Some are the articulated complicated vipers and others are small clay wigglers and even pot metal milagros. Beneath the small old table is a colorful and very friendly snake from Ocumicu from El Interior and a curled up, ready to strike rattler created by my favorite, Heron Martinez. On the top of the table is a clay clothing store from Ocumicho, three black clay virgins from Coyotepec San Bartolo, Oaxaca and several old Tonala tiles. The girl in the chair is a prized acquisition from the l960’s next to family bibles. The lower shelf has a larger Ocumicho store scene and horsemen in black clay from Coyotepec.
These are my ladies of Mexico. I had not realized I had so many figurines until I assembled them on top of this old china cabinet.. The tall figure is from Ocumicho and I draped her with all manner of necklaces and charms and milagros from Mexico I have found in many places. The rest of the ladies are from Oaxaca, Ocumicho, Jalisco and other locales. All are beautiful and wonderful to have in my dining room with me.
Bird vases from Tlaquepacque are displayed across the top of Grandma Jordan’s old 19th century Fredericksburg pie safe. These vases come in three design mofifs, birds, dragons and floral. I have some of each. The vases look very oriental and the untrained eye might assume they are from China or some part of Asia. The ports of Manzanillo, Acapulco and Mazatlan on the west coast of Mexico saw traders from Asia long before Cortez landed on the east coast. Sometimes over-riding the Indian influence in Mexico you can see the touches of oriental design elements.
The other major foreign design influence is from France. French and other European design is still much preferred by the upper economic classes in today’s Mexico. On the left of this photograph are seven tiny nichos of ‘cocinas’ or traditional Mexican kitchens. One of them has 100 items inside the small glass box.
My kitchen window mariachi group from Ocumicho vie with the view of the hills of west Austin. I found these at the Mercado in San Antonio. The shop-keeper brought them out one and two at a time and over a period on years I managed to buy eleven of them. I keep thinking there should be at least one more but it has not turned up so far. I keep asking the shop-keeper for another one and he indicates complete ignorance about what I am talking about. He is probably tired of me asking.
In the 1950’s, my Mother turned this former pantry into a breakfast room and years later I have turned it into a folk art gallery showin my collection of Panteleone Pandura mold-cast market figures, my Venturi Fabian wooden Oaxaca figures and a wall of Tonala clay plates and chargers.
A close-up of two of my shelves with the wonderfully detailed clay market figures mostly made from old molds created by Panteleone Panduro around the turn of the 20th century in Tlaquepacque, Jalisco. It is said that Panduro had the uncanny ability to hold a blob of clay in his hand and look at you standing nearby and crafting an exact likeness of you. Viewing these market figures and the amazing detail of facial expressions and clothing can leave you almost speechless. Very, very fragile, of course. These figures are fairly hard to find but I have spotted them in folk art stores, antique mall, even the 290 flea market one time. The best source is in Tlaquepacque where a grand or great-grand-daughter is casting from Panduro’s molds.
My Mother’s old breakfront holds a lot of her cut-glass collection, yes, I guess I inherited the ‘collecting gene’. At the right are 5 red clay figurines. The smallest is from Brazil, the three taller ones I purchased at ARIPO, an arts collective in Oaxaca and they were all prize winners in regional crafts competitions. The tallest figure is a portrait of me crafted here in Austin by the famous Josefina Aguilar. The Austin Friends of Folk Art sponsored a party for Josefina and her husband, Jose, at Priscilla Murr’s folk art filled home.
I was sitting trying to communicate in my Austin High School Spanish with Jose, when a lady across the room walked over to me and asked if I had noticed that Josefina, sitting at a card table working in clay, was doing a bust of me? I looked over and Josefina gave me that ‘mona lisa’ smile she does and I went over to look. Amazed. And very pleased. She later finished the small statue (she captured my bald head, my glasses and my mustache, but my figure has a definite ‘Josefina nose’ up-tilted) and Jean Graham took it to Laguna Gloria Art Museum and fired it. When I picked it up at Priscilla’s she took a photo of me with the statue in one hand and a book just as in Josefina’s pose in the other. On my next visit to Ocotlan de Morales, I too the photos to her house and sat down on the ground next to her and and as she worked showed her the photos of her statuette with me and of her visit to Austin. Such happenings make life so interesting!
Heron Martinez Mendoza died in November of 1990 at the age of 72. These next photographs show some of his inventive and decorative vessels and whimsical anthromorphic creations. You can spot his work by the rich natural cinnamon color of the burnished clay he decorated sometimes with incisions and always with the tone-on-tone ‘grecos’ or wandering geometric designs and patterns. To display these in my house I merely place them where I have room and they tend to blend in perfectly with everything else. His playful imagination created the large fish candleholder and the lizard candlestick shown here. Dogs heads protrude from other vessels and receptacles for candles pop up in all manner of unexpected places. He is most famous for his towering trees of life, some as much as 6′ tall with his trademark curlicues, birds and leaf adornments. The tree I have is 4′ tall and a little over 3′ wide and takes two people to move. Displaying only one of his larger creations will make any room memorable. I have grouped some of his smaller pots on shelves to provide an interesting array of the variety of his design work.
These miniature shelves are called ‘trasteros’ and are wonderful to hang on a kitchen wall. They can be a little hard to find but turn up now and then. Some I have acquired had broken pieces or were totally empty and I had a great time repairing some and using tiny pots and dishes and the like to decorate others. I am always looking for dishes and other kitchen miniatures. Miniature things have always attracted me and tiny Mexican pots or figures are a delight. Most Mexican miniatures come from Puebla state.
Four feet tall with three niches, this wood and paper piece was made in South Texas. dotted with gold glitter and paint it serves as a place for three santas from Peru. It becomes an eye-catching display on top of an old ‘kliedershrank’ or wardrobe made by my Grandfather Jordan.