Walk down the corridors of Herman Miller’s GreenHouse facility in Holland, Michigan and you might spot a snake along a wall, chickens roosting on a table, or an armadillo under the bamboo. Bamboo? Yes, bamboo. Along with the rest of the greenery, it’s the perfect setting for the brightly colored wood-carved creatures that complement the space and bring a sense of play to work.
The story I was told is that one of our executives many years back had been to Oaxaca, Mexico, where he came upon the woodcarved art of Manuel Jiménez.
Center image: Manuel Jiménez pictured with one of his sons. Photo via: Wikipedia
Woodcarving is an important part of Oaxacan culture, existing since the Mixteca-Zapoteca civilizations. According to El Carocol Zapoteca, “Oaxaca’s indigenous and peasant communities reinitiated woodcarving in an open manner to create masks for festivals, dances, and carnivals, figures for popular consumption and toys.”
Manuel Jiménez got his start by carving wooden images for masks from copal wood, which he established as the preferred material of Oaxacan carvers. Originally painted with aniline and natural dyes, today they are painted with acrylic paint so they don’t lose their color.
A master woodcarver recognized as the founder of folk art woodcarving in Oaxaca, Jiménez transformed a local craft into a highly-collectible art form. Often called “the godfather of all Oaxacan woodcarving,” Jiménez practiced his art for over three decades.
Most of the figures at the GreenHouse are fashioned by Jiménez and his sons from copal wood, but we’ve added pieces from other artists as well.
Their bright, whimsical colors blend together reality and imagination, bringing inspiration to the workplace.
By Marcia Davis