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Joe Ortega, Woodcarver

El Nicho Folk Artist Spotlight

El Nicho | Santos by Joe Ortega
Joe Ortega's Moose
Joe Ortega's Bunny Manger
Joe Ortega's Donkeys
Joe Ortega's Arkangel Michael
Joe Ortega's Elephant
Joe Ortega's Coyotes
Joe Ortega's Bunnies
Joe Ortega's Deer
Joe Ortega's Roswell Alien
Joe Ortega's Bear and Badger
Joe Ortega's Bluejay
Joe Ortega's Grinch
Joe Ortega's Fan Tribute
Joe Ortega's Einstein
Joe Ortega's Bunnies
Joe Ortega's Angel with a Twist
Joe Ortega's Virgin Mary
Joe Ortega's Giraffe
Joe Ortega's Super Hero Angel

The Wonderful World

of Joe Ortega

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. 

Click on any image to enlarge

Joe Ortega Great White Shark

Do they have sharks in Santa Fe? At El Nicho they do! Photo ©2017 El Nicho, Inc.

Joe Ortega at his studio in Santa Fe

Joe Ortega at work in his studio

Joe Ortega at his studio in Santa Fe

Joe Ortega showing the wooden logs that begins his process of carving.

Scraps of Wood and a Treasure

At Joe Ortega's studio, even a wheelbarrow can hide a treasure.

Joe Ortega - Roots of Creation

At Joe Ortega's studio, twisted roots and lumber await their transformation.

Joe Ortega's Studio-Figures Await

At Joe Ortega's studio, sanded sculptures become saints.

Joe Ortega's Studio-Figures Await

At Joe Ortega's studio, sanded sculptures become saints.

Joe Ortega's Studio-Treasure Trove

At Joe Ortega's studio, the process of becoming art begins with driftwood.

Joe Ortega's Yoda

I didn't know Yoda was from Santa Fe! Photo ©2017 Robert Arrington. All rights Reserved.

Joe Ortega's Einstein

Joe Ortega's custom creation of Einstein.

Contact Us

Joe Ortega will carve any animal, saint or person† upon request, even the family dog or cat! If you are interested in a commission, use the contact form below to contact El Nicho and we will get in touch with you. Please include instructions on how to build your custom order. 


† Due to exclusive licensing laws some characters cannot be created (ex. Star Wars, Marvel, Elvis, etc). 

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Prices range from $50 for a small carving up to over $400 based on size and complexity. Use the form above to request a quote and include the size you desire. 

Contact Joe Ortega
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