These magical elephants are handmade from wool by Mexican artisans Abigail and Lili Mendez in Chiapas.
It is not clear when these "animalitos" (little animals) first appeared. Some artisans can trace them back to the 90s.
One thing is for sure–– in the beginning, these "animalitos" were not intended to be sold. Natives from Chiapas originally created these "animalitos" as toys for their children using leftover fabric from traditional wool clothing. This style of clothing is widely used in the cold mountain region of the Los Altos de Chiapas (the highlands of Chiapas).
Eventually, the wool toys became popular and artisans began to sell them. Over time, the designs became more beautiful, intricate, and unique.
Today, these wool animals are mainly made in San Juan Chamula and San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.
How They Are Made:
Each elephant is one of a kind. The process varies depending on which artisans made them. However, there are typically two processes, both of which are 100% handmade.
1. Some artisans start by caring for the sheep, then shearing the wool. Once enough wool is collected, they wash the it using a plant “root” that works like a natural soap. This allows the artisans to clean the wool as much as possible. Then the wool is carded and spun into a thin yard. Once the desired yarn is obtained, it is dyed, using plant or synthetic dyes. When the desired color is obtained or no color (natural), artisans will start making the base material for the "animalitos." They put the yarn in their waist loom and the yarn will begin to take shape in the form of a fabric.
2. Some artisans purchase the wool fabric, saving both time and energy. Once they have the base material the same procedure is followed.
These "animalitos" include additional embroidery and are built the same way as handmade teddy bears. After an animal is created, additional features are added depending on the wool toy. If it’s a unicorn, loose colorful yarn is incorporated to create a tail and a braid.