Friday, November 6, 2009

Tonala and Tlaquepaque: Artisan Headquarters

Savvy shoppers traveling in Mexico put these two towns, both an easy drive from Guadalajara, on their travel itineraries.

Levelers should, too. Both are mostly level but certainly not even.

Tip: Remember -  don't walk and talk or gawk at the same time anywhere in Mexico.

Tonalo is known for its glass blowers, papier mache artists and potters, including the crosshatched,  petatilla-style of painted ceramics perfected by four generations of the Bernabe family.

It's a working town - the clay used by artisans in Tlaquepaque comes from here now - and judging by the architecture always has been, unlike its more touristy neighbor where the rich built handsome haciendas where they could escape the city.

Pretty is as pretty does, though, and there are bargains to be found in hand-blown glass, pewter, fanciful paper mache creatures or boxes, pottery and other decorative objects.

Tlaquepaque (Tla-kah-pahck-ee - fun to say once you get your tongue around it) is where most tourists head and it's easy to see why. Convenient tour bus parking, an easy-to-walk main shopping street lined with attractive restaurants and stores in handsome buildings where the rich once lived that are filled with handicrafts geared to Western tastes.

Prices will be a bit higher but the quality and style probably will be more appealing.

On the higher end, the famous Mexican artist Sergio Bustamante has a gallery here that features his designs on shoes, handbags, jewelry and scarves in addition to the really high end furniture and sculpture. You'll also encounter the chubbily charming ceramic sculpture of Rodo Padilla.


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