My name is Yreina Flores Ortiz.  I live in Indio, California, with my husband, daughter and son, and our little dogs, Fizzy and Billy.  During the summer here in the Southern California desert, temperatures can rise up to 120°F (48°C)!

With previous working experience as an art director at a sign company, my design aesthetic is influenced by both my culture and time as a graphic designer among self-proclaimed “wall dogs”, old-school sign painters. I learned so much there at the sign shop about craftsmanship and attention to detail. Ultimately, I became dependent not on a computer, but on my hand and eyes.

Today, I am a full-time artist working from my private studio in Old Town Indio.

Some thoughts on papel picado:

Papel picado has roots that can be traced back to Ancient Mexican Indian culture, who cut ceremonial offerings out of bark paper, amate. This tradition influenced the evolution of papel picado when papel de china, chinese tissue paper arrived in Mexico in the 1500’s. Today’s commercially available papel picado is mostly mass-produced & machine-cut plastic flags. Yet, papel picado’s connection to life ceremonies endures. Papel picado is used in many celebrations such as Day of the Dead, Christmas, weddings, and other religious ceremonies.

My cutting technique is a combination of the traditional method, (using hammer, chisels & punches) with a modern X-Acto blade as my primary tool. I draw my patterns by hand, then cut them from stacks of tissue paper up to 20 layers thick. The first paper cuttings I made were illustrations for a hand-bound photography book in college, which illustrated vocal stories passed down in my father’s family. Soon after, I taught myself how to cut papel picado. It has taken me years to learn how to design a beautiful pattern that will be graceful, strong and readable when hung. Tissue paper is so delicate! If the design isn’t strong enough it will flop and droop when the flags are mid-air. But if I don’t cut enough detail, the flag’s design will be clunky and hard to read. I truly love the challenge of creating in this medium.

Despite the intensely focused hours of cutting, I also love the impermanence of papel picado banners. They aren’t meant to last forever and are usually taken down or abandoned to the elements after an event. Because of this, I consider them to carry, literally, the life of the party. Something magical happens when the papel picado goes up!

Sometimes a bride will frame a flag of my papel picado that hung in her wedding. She looks at it and associates it with her happiness. She remembers the time, the place, the people that shared in it. It is an honor to create this connection.

It is my dream to create my place in the history of this ancient art form that represents who I am: a 4th generation child of Mexican immigrants on my mother’s side, and on my father’s side TexMex with Native American ancestry that stretches back to a time when Texas was part of Mexico under Spanish rule. My cultural and spiritual roots run deep. They nourish and strengthen me. Yet I still walk about this world carrying my fancy Nikon camera and listening to Beyoncé while drinking my favorite iced green tea!

In my familia, Friday nights are spent around the kitchen table, laughing. Oh, the stories we tell!  ¡Ay Mujer! was born on one of these nights. Because, why not? Why not make a living doing what I love- even if it is considered ‘disposable art’? Why not embrace the modern, often mass-produced plastic decoration and elevate it back to where it started as a sacred offering… a prayer?

Yreina’s fine art papel picado pieces have exhibited in the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Palm Springs Art Museum, and the PS Art Museum of Palm Desert. She is a member of the Guild of American Papercutters. She was also honored to have partnered with X-Acto as a selected papercutting artist in GAP Masters Club 2012.

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