• San Cristobal
  • Chiapas

Favorite Animal Artist Books with Carla Sonheim


While in San Miguel de Allende earlier this year, Carla Sonheim and I stopped by one my favorite shops. She immediately gravitated to a book with jaguar spots on the front. To my surprise, I knew who had made it and could give her the history of the Taller Lenateros in Chiapas. Needless to say, Carla was all in for doing a workshop in this very magical city. Paper and animals, perfect combination for Carla. 



San Cristobal de las Casas is situated in the highlands of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Surrounded by pine forests, the Spanish colonial city is marked with cobbled-stone streets, red roofs, iron balconies, and restored century-old houses with uniquely colored doors. 

The city was named as one of the most magical of the Pueblos Magicos (magical villages) by the Mexican government. It is here where ancient customs coexist with modern amenities. It is the heart of one of the most deeply rooted indigenous areas in Mexico as seen by the colorful, distinct clothing worn by the women. 

And it is here that the poet Ambar Past gathered Mayan women together in a women's collective to document their stories for generations to come. They create exquisite handmade books, posters and fine-art prints from recycled paper infused with local plants, using images inspired by traditional folk art. 

They have designed a workshop for us where you will create your own papers to be used in making a journal with Carla. 

Wait until you see the room full of finished paper. I swooned when I saw it. 

Some of the women at the collective

Some of the women at the collective


If you love paper — buying it, cutting it, folding it, sewing it, writing on it, drawing on it, painting on it and manipulating it — this is where you need to be in March 2018!

Carla's journal made with papers from Chiapas

Carla's journal made with papers from Chiapas

In this 5-day workshop we will focus on animals (your favorites — real and imaginary!) and create one giant book and multiple smaller handmade books.

Carla's delightful animals

Carla's delightful animals

We’ll start our journey with Taller Lenateros where we will take a workshop and procure beautiful handmade papers created by indigenous women. 

Next we will create a beautiful GRANDE book using papers found, purchased and brought from home. We will bind our colorful books together with washi tape and a unique knotting process that allows the books to lie flat.


Then we'll spend the rest of the week in our art laboratory filling our books and documenting our animal stories... we will write, draw, stamp, paint, print, sew, staple, collage and burn! We might make paper dolls, write poems, create pop-ups and explore paper cutting.

We’ll also expand beyond 2D with buttons, feathers, twine, string, milagros, and ephemera found on the streets of Chiapas. 


Each day will start with a writing exercise, some drawing assignments, and a mixed-media/book-of-the-day demo. Then you are free to fill your books. 

Relaxing and fun… this class is for anyone who loves paper, story, animals, and BOOKS!


Day 1, Friday March 16. The group will arrive at the Tuxtla Airport at 8:10 p.m. where we will have a driver waiting to whisk you away to our hotel about an hour's drive away. We will meet for a welcoming margarita and perhaps a bite or two before heading off to bed.

Day 2, Sat. March 17. All breakfasts will be at the hotel. We start today with a walking tour with our friend Gaby. We will also visit the world class textiles museum, The Centro de Textiles del Mundo located in the Convento Santo Domingo that showcases 500 examples of handwoven textiles from throughout Mexico and Central America. Next to the Templo is Sna Jolobil - Tzotzil, "The Weaver's House," a collective of 800 weavers from the Chiapas highlands founded in the 1970s to foster the important indigenous art of backstrap-loom weaving. If there is time, we will also stop at the Saturday market. Lunch and dinner will be provided.

Day 3, Sun. March 18. Breakfast and our full day of lessons with Carla. We will break for comida (lunch) and there will be free time that afternoon before we head off to dinner around 7:30 p.m.

Day 4, Mon. March 19. Have an early breakfast because today is when we have our workshop with Taller Lenateros. We will be there until 2:00 p.m. and then have a late comida. You will have free time to explore and dinner is on your own this evening. 

This workshop is full. A waiting list has been started. 

This Escape includes

  • week long workshop with Carla
  • 8 nights accommodation, 7 in San Cristobal, 1 in Tuxtla
  • welcome reception
  • all breakfasts and lunches
  • 5 dinners
  • 1 cooking class with Chef Ane Elena Martinez
  • visit to local market
  • visit to textile and other local museums
  • walking tour of San Cristobal
  • workshop with local women's collective to make your own paper
  • free time to explore
  • River Cruise in the Sumidero Canyon
  • transportation from Tuxtla to San Cristobal and return trip
  • new art tribe

Price: $3,500, limited to 12 and does not include transportation to/from Mexico. Price is based on shared accommodations, limited single rooms are available for an additional $400. 

A $1,000 non-refundable deposit is due upon registration with the final payment due November 1, 2017


Hotel Parador Margarita, San Cristobal

Hotel Parador Margarita, San Cristobal

Mariott Tuxtla Gutierrez

Mariott Tuxtla Gutierrez

Airport:  Most flights will be coming from Mexico City. Angel Albino Corzo International Airport, also known as Tuxtla Gutierrez International airport, serves the Mexican municipality of Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas. Code: (TGZ) It is about an hour's drive to San Cristobal from the airport. American Airline flight 8296 arrives at 8:10 p.m. We will have transportation there to drive you to San Cristobal.


Day 5, Tues. March 20. After breakfast, we will walk to Lenateros to pick up our papers then return to our workshop with Carla. Lunch will be provided and when the class ends at 4:30, you will have free time before we visit Sergio Castro's private museum. Dinner will be provided.

Some of the costumes Sergio has received as payment for providing treatment for burns. 

Some of the costumes Sergio has received as payment for providing treatment for burns. 

Day 6, Wed. March 21. After breakfast, we will have class with Carla, then break for lunch around 1:00 p.m. We will head to the Museo de Casa Na'Bolom created by Archaeologist Frans Blom and his wife, Gertrude, a photographer and anthropologist who worked extensively with the indigenous Lacandons in the jungles surrounding San Cristobal. You have the rest of the afternoon free before class with Chef Ane Elena Martinez that evening. 

Day 7, Thurs. March 22. Breakfast and then our final class with Carla. We will break for lunch and you will have free time at 4:30 before we have our last dinner together in San Cristobal. 


Day 8, Friday March 23. Breakfast and then have your bags downstairs ready for check out. Wear casual clothes, bring sunscreen and a hat that fits tightly to your head or is tied. Our bags will be packed into the van and we will head to the Rio Grijalalva at the bottom of the Sumidero Canyon for a 14-mile boat ride down this daunting fissure of the earth - in some places the walls are up to 3,500 feet high. We will stop for lunch before continuing to Tuxtla Gutierrez where we will check into the Mariott. Tonight will be our farewell cena together. 


Day 9, Sat. March 24.  Everyone leaves



  • a sheet of your favorite watercolor paper (can fold to fit in your suitcase)
  • small watercolor set 
  • brushes (including a #12 round)
  • other decorative papers that you have collected 
  • a stapler and staples
  • needle and thread
  • small buttons, ribbons, fabric or ephemera
  • scissors
  • glue stick

Bring the following if you have; otherwise, don’t worry! We will have plenty to share.

  • other papers you would like to incorporate into your artist books
  • washi tape
  • wood burning tool
  • colored pencils
  • markers
  • stash of beads and decorative threads, buttons, etc.

Provided Supplies

  • acrylic paint
  • tape, masking tape
  • watercolor paper; other papers
  • book binding thread and needles
  • Carla’s stash of beads and decorative threads, buttons, papers, etc.
  • paper towels
The door is open for you to join us!

The door is open for you to join us!

This itinerary may change due to weather, new opportunities of the whim of the group.

Carla Sonheim

Carla Sonheim is a painter, illustrator, and creativity workshop instructor known for her fun and innovative projects and techniques designed to help adult students recover a more spontaneous, playful approach to creating. She is the author of three instructional art books, including Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing FunDrawing and Painting Imaginary Animals: A Mixed-Media Workshop and The Art of Silliness: A Creativity Book for Everyone. In 2012 she co-authored Creative Photography Lab with her husband, Steve Sonheim. This is Carla's third Bellissima Art Escape.