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Window Shopping Column: Chiripa's Fun, Fabulous Fiesta

Published On: Nov 18 2011 04:16:07 AM CST   Updated On: Nov 18 2011 04:24:26 AM CST

By Shayna Miller Madison Magazine

Stepping inside Chiripa is a riot of color and celebration?mixed with a bit of the macabre in the skeletons and masks that dot the walls and shelves. Of course celebrating the dead is a central part of Mexican culture, so what does one expect out of a store that sells artisan crafts from Mexico?

The interior looks like a shop you?d encounter south of the border, with tiled floors and warm pumpkin-colored walls. Fluttery paper flowers and colorful flag banners hang from the ceiling, perenially celebrating a fiesta.

Owners Beth Robinson and Kathryn Leide opened the home d├ęcor and gift shop simply because of their travels to Mexico with their spouses and their love of the handcrafted work they saw there. The pair purchase directly from the artisans.

Find stunningly hand-painted, carved wooden animals, sterling silver jewelry, hand-hammered copper pieces and intriguingly gorgeous wall hangings. They?re items that make you happy looking at them?and would make great gifts for the holidays, too.

Robinson adds that chiripa means a happy accident or stroke of luck. Judging by the store?s recent five-year anniversary, more than luck is likely at play here.

?It seems like things have worked,? says Leide, smiling. ?People don?t get to see this everywhere?we?re exposing them to things they?ve never seen.?

Clockwise from top left:

INTRICATE DETAIL Artist Jacobo and Maria Angeles?s (whose work is also featured in the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, notes Leide) wood carvings are amazingly all hand-carved and hand-painted. ?To be able to do the design and symmetry [in their work] is just amazing,? says Robinson. $20?$2,000

FIESTA WARE This hand-painted Talavera pottery is made in the Liceagui family?s workshop and is perfect for a party, or anytime. $9?$39

SKULL CANDY Day of the Dead symbolism is pervasive in Mexican culture?and it takes on a much less menacing meaning when you see how much fascinating skull and skeleton imagery the shop has, including shadowboxes, wall hangings, jewelry and carvings. $12?$165

HEAVY METAL ?We ran into artist Felix Bautista Ramirez who makes these tin stars on the street. He was carrying a tin cactus and we asked him where we could find items similar to the cactus, and he drove us to his workshop!? says Leide. $18?$70

HOLIDAY CHEER An Oaxacan women?s cooperative makes these hand- painted tin ornaments. $2.25

LUCKY CHARMS Traditional Mexican ornamental hangings greet shoppers when they walk in?some of which mean good luck. Prices vary.

Chiripa, 636 S. Park St., 441-8808.

Read more Shopping & Style features here

Read Miller's weekly Window Shopping blog here

Shayna Miller is associate and style editor of Madison Magazine.

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