F R A N C I S C O  T O L E D O

El Taller Arte Papel Oaxaca was begun in 1998, in San Agustín, Etla, Oaxaca and is housed in a refurbished hydroelectric plant, Hidroeléctrica La Soledad. The workshop is working toward becoming a self-sustaining business where surplus money is invested in reforestation, nurseries, cultural and educational programs for the community.

Francisco Toledo, a well-known Mexican painter, was founder of the cooperative, teaching locals how to make handmade paper free of contaminants. They use the natural fibers of Chichicastle, agave, Majahua, white cotton, cotton Coyuche, the cotton kapok tree and lion's paw.

Paper products made are notebooks, cards, bags, envelopes, boxes, origami (paper figures), jewelry and paper kites. In order to make their products available to the consumer, they offer a diverse number of products such as a variety of notebooks in different sizes and prices. The cooperative also makes paper jewelry: bracelets, necklaces, and bracelets featuring original designs.

Born of Zapotec parents in 1940 in the town of Juchitán on Mexico's Gulf of Tehuantepec, Francisco Toledo began studying art at the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Oaxaca city. At seventeen, he left Oaxaca to continue training at the Taller Libre de Grabado in Mexico City. Three years later he moved to Paris, remaining there for five years working in the shop of the renowned British printmaker Stanley William Hayter. By the time he returned to Mexico in 1965, Toledo had been recognized in Europe as a singular artist and celebrated by art critics for his "development of the mythic" and "his sacred sense of life." Settling in Oaxaca, he produced paintings and stone, wood, and wax sculptures, as well as graphics. As a medium, graphics particularly intrigued him from early in his career because of the extraordinary range of effects available through printing and etching. Recently, motivated by a strong sense of responsibility for the preservation of local cultural traditions, Toledo began to protect and promote the arts and crafts of Oaxaca through the founding of institutions including the Graphic Arts Institute in Oaxaca, the Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Center for Photography.

Toledo's unique vision is based on a fantastic reality that he finds residing in nature and life. It is a vision that reflects his deep appreciation and astute observation of nature, particularly of animals (that are not often associated with beauty, such as insects, toads, and bats). His inspiration is gained from his profound understanding of his own as well as other cultures. Anthropomorphized creatures and metamorphosed objects are a persistent aspect of his work.