Stunning Oaxacan Sculpture Level: 4-8


Oaxacan Sculpture

Art Lesson Plan by Sara Cox



Oaxaca is a state in Mexico known for its wood carving statues. These statues, also known as alebrijes, were created by Pedro Linares in 1936 after he had a dream where hybrid animals were talking to him and shouting the word “alebrijes.” Linares began making his statues using paper mâché. But other Mexican artisans who had already been making statues out of wood began to create alebrijes using the technique they were familiar with and this has become the more prominent version of them. Many artists only use wood from the branches of the copal trees to better preserve the trees.

If you can, check out this outdoor installation of giant alebrijes at Cantigny Park in Wheaton, Illinois. It keeps Linares’ spirit alive and is sure to impress!



Describe and create an alebrije sculpture inspired by Oaxaca wood carving art. Teach students about the history and culture behind alebrije sculptures and their roots in Oaxaca, Mexico.



Anchor Standard #2
-Organize and develop artistic ideas and work.

Anchor Standard #5
-Develop and refine artistic techniques and work for

Anchor Standard #8
-Interpret intent and meaning in artistic work.

Anchor Standard #11
-Relate artistic ideas and work with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.



View examples of Oaxaca sculptures of Mexico and discuss their history. Create a pinch pot turtle from air dry clay. Paint your turtle sculpture using acrylic paint to resemble the patterns and colors of alebrijes.


Step 1:
Using your air dry clay, create a pinch pot for the turtle shell. A pinch pot is created exactly how it sounds like it would be created. You take a ball of clay and form it into a bowl by pinching the sides until you get a shape you are satisfied with.

Oaxacan Sculpture Art Lesson Plan


Step 2:
Separate smaller pieces of clay to create a head, 4 legs, and a tail to be attached. Shape them to your liking. Try to make the legs as even as possible so that your turtle will be able to stand. And keep your head small so that the turtle will stay balanced.

Oaxacan Sculpture Art Lesson Plan


Step 3:
Attach a head, 4 legs, and tail to your pinch pot using a pencil to score the clay and Popsicle stick to smooth it out. Again, try to make sure the legs are placed so that the finished turtle can stand upright and not wobble.

Oaxacan Sculpture Art Lesson Plan


Step 4:
Allow a couple days for clay to dry, then paint your sculpture with bright colors and patterns using acrylic paint. Remember that an alebrije is customarily a combination of multiple types of animals. Even though your alebrije is in the shape of a turtle, consider what other animals you can incorporate as you paint it.

Oaxacan Sculpture Art Lesson Plan



  1. Although this lesson plan demonstrates making a turtle, feel free to create whatever type of alebrije you would like. Consider creating a work that is a hybrid of multiple animals like Linares saw in his dream.
  2. To make this project a Display My Art fundraiser, take a picture of you work and glue it onto our drawing paper.


While your students are working on their pieces, teach them these fun facts about alebrijes!

  1. “Alebrije” means “fantasy” or “imaginary.”
  2. The characters Dante and Pepita in the Disney Pixar movie Coco are inspired by alebrijes.
  3. Alebrijes are one of Mexico’s most recognized art forms.
  4. Manuel Jiménez is credited as the first artist to make alebrijes out of wood.
  5. Linares’ family members were piñata makers, so it makes sense for him to have dreamt up these fun vibrant animals.
*Don’t forget to put student name and year on the drawing, at least one inch away from the outside border.*

To use this lesson as an art fundraiser, go to

Required Materials

  • 01Air dry clay
  • 02Pencil/clay needle
  • 03Popsicle stick
  • 04Acrylic paint
  • 05Water cup
  • 06Paintbrush
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