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Carving comes naturally to Joe and the world is a happier place because of it. The youngest child of Ben and Isabel Ortega, Joe Ortega grew up in the company of celebrated woodcarvers of Santos and folk art animals in the Santa Fe area of Northern New Mexico.
At the age of 20, Joe began to carve his own wooden folk art animals. Over the years he has produced a menagerie of New Mexican critters including coyotes, roadrunners, donkeys, rabbits, and roosters. In recent years he has expanded his zoo to include elephants, giraffes, and even a sloth!
Joe also carves animals and characters by special request. He recently created a carving of Yoda and Einstein as well as Billy the Kid and Geronimo! Joe's clear vision of bridging traditions of the past with traditions in the making is a hallmark of contemporary woodcarvers in New Mexico.
A recent visit to Joe's workshop in Santa Fe shows us the process of transforming an ordinary piece of cottonwood, aspen or driftwood into an artistic creation that delights the soul. Joe and his family venture into the New Mexico wilderness to gather the wood for his creations. An ordinary twisted branch of aspen becomes the robes of St. Francis while the crooked root from a cottonwood root becomes the floppy ears of a jackrabbit. Joe's whimsical creations are a wonderful world to behold.