Live Art and Culture in Mexico City With Actionfigur3s

Make a sweet sugar-skull weed pot with ceramics artist Marie Gibbons.
Make a sweet sugar-skull weed pot with ceramics artist Marie Gibbons. Marie Gibbons
Marie Gibbons, Sandra Renteria and Katie Taft, three women with Denver ties, shared similar aspirations and a web of loose connections. But they were really just acquaintances, says Gibbons, a well-known local clay artist and teacher, until life and the Internet intervened, and the idea for a weeklong Make Art in Mexico City dream vacation and clay workshop was born.

Gibbons and Renteria, an artist and small-business owner now living in Mexico, became closer on Facebook than they’d been in Denver years ago, when both ran businesses in the Tennyson Street Cultural District. From afar, they’d discussed the idea of bringing a workshop to Renteria’s charming Coyoacan neighborhood, deep in the heart of Frida Kahlo country. Then artist Katie Taft was added to the mix.

“Katie and [her photographer companion] Anthony Camera went to Mexico City, where they met Sandra and immediately hit it off. Who wouldn’t?” Gibbons asks. "Sandra told them how we’ve had this pipe dream for a couple of years but it never happened.” Taft’s own entrepreneurial dream of building a career arranging
art-travel experiences under the moniker Action Figur3s fit right in with theirs.

“Sandra pulled it together, and that’s how the three of us hooked up,” Gibbons adds. “Katie’s doing the whole itinerary and travel arrangements, I’m the artist, and Sandra is an amazing on-site artist.” She's also a Mexico City local with connections and an open-air studio for the workshops, which sealed the deal.

The trip, scheduled for August 7 through August 13, includes accommodations and activities steeped in Mexican art and culture, with day tours to the Museo de Arte Popular, Bazaar Sábado and the floating gardens of Xochimilco and the Isla de las Muñecas (Island of the Dolls), as well as three afternoon workshop sessions with Gibbons. In Denver, Gibbons is known for her quirky clay sculptures and beautiful decorative tiles, and for the workshops and First Friday make-and-take projects she leads at her Wheat Ridge studio.

click to enlarge Remember your trip to Mexico City with a textured tile you make yourself. - MARIE GIBBONS
Remember your trip to Mexico City with a textured tile you make yourself.
Marie Gibbons
“For the first workshop, we’ll be making bas-relief tiles inspired by the locale,” Gibbons explains. “We’ll start with morning walking tours to look at the architectures, the facades, the doors and windows. Then, we’ll make sugar-skull weed pots, and at the end of the week, I’ll do a demo and discussion on post-fire finishing.

“If their work gets fired fast, and that’s iffy — in Mexico, mañana does not mean right away — people might have their own pieces to experience how to apply paint,” she continues. “If not, we’ll have handouts and some test tiles for them to practice on. Either way, they’ll go home knowing how to do this on their own when they get their pieces back. I want to help people make an art piece that, whenever they look at it, they'll remember their time in Mexico."

Anthony Camera (a pro who’s shot countless covers for Westword) will offer an optional street photography workshop for an extra charge of $200. The base fee for the trip is $2,500 ($2,300 if you register before June 2), with a $1,000 non-refundable deposit due up front (the rest is due by July 10). Gibbons says people are already booking for the dream vacation, and they can only accommodate up to twelve travelers.

Interested? Gibbons will give a talk about the trip, with a video by Taft offering a close-up look at her work, style and techniques, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 10, at Vertigo Gallery, 960 Santa Fe Drive. Get complete details about the artist talk and the tour online at the Action Figur3s home page, by emailing [email protected], or by calling 303-888-2679.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd