Traditional Retablo Saints and Day of the Dead Art

Albuquerque, New Mexico · 234 Sales


Traditional Retablo Saints and Day of the Dead Art

Albuquerque, New Mexico 234 Sales On Etsy since 2014

5 out of 5 stars
Sean Wells

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Sean Wells

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I am addicted to creating. I draw inspiration from my rich cultural and ethnic roots.

Over 400 years ago, a young Spanish Colonial soldier named Manuel Delgado stood by the right hand of the immortalized Don Diego De Vargas in the reconquesting of the city of Santa Fe. He went on to have generations of children who propagated the surrounding area. 5 generations ago, my Great Great Grandfather, Francisco Delgado, decendent to that young soldier, began creating works of art from leftover tin food cans abandoned by the US Army Garrisons traveling through the area. That art form, referred to as "tinwork" was passed through 5 generations to my brother, Jason Younis y Delgado. My Grandmother had trained all of the children of our generation, but Jason was the one with the heart and gift for working with tin. But, alas, tin was not for me.

Instead, I showed a great interest and aptitude for drawing and painting, so my Grandmother encouraged me to try the traditional art of retablo painting. I did very well in the Spanish Market youth market, but then the world caught my interest and I went off to high school and attended college on the East Coast at the University of Virginia where I studied architecture. I love the art of designing buildings. I met my husband and partner in graduate school and we started a design firm while we were still in school. Our work grew rapidly and we were on top of the world, until the economy crashed in 2006. To add to the mounting stress, it seemed God thought this would be an appropriate time to throw a baby into the mix. As we struggled to redirect our firm towards a broader scope of general design, a second baby joined us and we had great motivation to get into gear. But, years of being self-employed had spoiled us and we refused to get "real jobs," fighting the current. It was then that we decided to circle the wagons and return to New Mexico to be closer to my family and live in a more affordable area, at least until we got on our feet again.

When I returned, I quickly got involved in assisting my brother at his tin shows and he poked me about getting back into painting. I thought I was too old, but my Grandmother offered me a chance to study with one of the most respected santeras (female Saint painters). I took the opportunity and it would change my life direction again. I began studying diligently the Saints, the stories of the region and learned the techniques and traditional methods of retablo painting. The more I learned, the more I loved the craft. I juried into the prestigious Spanish Market and my brother and I began developing collaborative tin and retablo pieces. I am especially proud of these as I feel it will be our legacy in the Spanish Colonial story. I also started producing and hosting a local TV show on retablo painting that has been very warmly received (look up "New Mexican Santera" on Youtube).

As I developed my traditional arts, we were also still developing our design business, taking on all sorts of graphics projects and making a name for ourselves. A distant relative was referred to me (as someone who was creating art and graphics with cultural ties). I was invited to concept a Day of the Dead beer (Cerveza de los Muertos) and I jumped at it. From this very successful project, I took a new turn in my art style, It was a welcome relief to the strict regimen I had created in the formal Saint paintings. I was exploring whimsical imagery, bright colors and relishing imperfections. From their, I was invited to create a Day of the Dead themed wine called La Catrina Vino. I love that set--it features individual characters on each bottle, but together, they make up all the characters of a wedding party! And, by coincidence, some designers from the New Mexico Lottery happened to see the wine at the store. They reached out to me and now I am developing several images that will be featured on a Day of the Dead lottery scratcher ticket!

The best part about all of these projects is that all of the clients allowed me to retain full copyrights to the images, something unusual on graphic projects. This allows me to parlay these images into a range of products, something I have dreamed about all my life. I have never imagined myself to be a gallery artist (although I did show my muerto art on Canyon Road!). I have always wanted to produce art products for the masses so everyone who wanted to could enjoy my art.

As I reflect on my journey, I flash back to 10 year old me. My mother was a single Mom who would stay up all night sewing on her industrial machine trying to eek out a few extra dollars. My brother and I desperately wanted to help her and I remember we tried a few times to draw pictures and put them outside on the sidewalk with price tags of 25¢ each. I remember a few people walking by us. We never sold anything. So, I feel especially blessed every single time someone stops at my booth and says, "I like this so much, I will buy it and I will hang it in my house and enjoy it."

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  • Sean Wells


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Last updated on October 28, 2014
I am a female designer and artist from Santa Fe, New Mexico. I have strong cultural roots in the Southwest that are reflected in my work. I also have a background in architecture with a BS Arch from the University of Virginia. That experience and my obsession with design also influences my creations. I love every item I create and aspire to share my designs with the World.

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I hope you’ll be happy with your purchase. If you are not satisfied please let me know immediately and we will work together to make things right. If you have any doubt or question about an item let me know before your purchase and I’ll be happy to clarify.
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Shipping is provided by USPS. I recycle shipping materials. I run this store on the side of my other life responsibilities and although I dedicate lots of time to it and I take my store responsibilities seriously, sometimes it can take me a few days to package up and ship an item. If you have special shipping parameters, please convey that to me at the time of purchase.

International Shipping: If this item is available for International Shipping, expect up to 6 weeks. Customs may open or hold your package without notice.

Damage: If the item arrives damaged, contact me right away and be assured we will work something out to suit your particular situation. Damage may be protected with shipping insurance. Pictures of damage may be requested.

Lost or Delayed Items: If your item is very delayed or never arrives, please contact me so I can check and provide tracking information. Rest assured, we will work out something fair for your situation.
Additional policies and FAQs
Most of my items are lovingly created individually and will vary from item to item. Some listings that are created in quantity may vary slightly from the photograph. Although I do try to create quality items, imperfections and variations are what make each item unique.

Please note if you are purchasing original art, I do participate in many shows and there is a small chance an item may be sold at a live event before the time of purchase. In this rare event, full payment will be promptly refunded or you may be given the option to have an original commissioned pieced based on the sold piece. Thank you for your understanding!