PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland brand consultancy firm has teamed up with an indigenous Chicano artist Toltekpalto to create 3D printed, hand-painted toys inspired by children in OHSU’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.
The toys will be auctioned off this week to raise money for the hospital as part of "The Amino Project," launched by the firm INDUSTRY.
"It means a lot to me because most of my work is influenced by my culture, by my roots," Toltepal said. "So to do another project like this and also to work with such an awesome team overall, it just meant a lot to me."
Before Tekaptl started painting, the team at INDUSTRY met with four Doernbecher kids to create unique figures inspired by the classic "alebrijes" found in Mexican folk art.
"We really wanted to bring the spirits of the kids and their stories to light in an authentic way," said industrial designer Alissa Wang.
Wang worked one-on-one with the kids from Doernbecher to take their ideas from paper to the 3D printer.
"We asked what their favorite animals were, about their life, about their aspirations in life, about their future," Wang said. "From there, we just went right into the design process of sketching, drawing, prototyping and creating in 3D and digital to bring them to life."
Alebrijes are brightly colored creations, a combination of multiple animals said to represent someone’s soul.
The concept of alebrijes comes from Mexican artist Pedro Linares and the visions he had when an illness put him in a coma.
"The trees, the rock and the skies start to turn to these bright colors to different shapes, which turn into these different animals and these animals kept saying one word: alebrije, alebrije, alebrije," Tekaptl said.
The Amino Project started more than two years ago, just before the pandemic. However, the purpose of the project goes back further.
In 2012, INDUSTRY co-founder Meral Middleton lost her daughter Mira only a few days after she was born.
"Through those moments, we realized illness and loss are still painfully taboo today. But many indigenous cultures recognize these moments openly, often using art to share the stories. The spirit animals of Mexican folk art are the inspiration behind Animo," Middleton said in a video promoting the project.
"This was something that we felt all very personally connected to and we wanted to give back to the hospital for the role they played in her story," Wang said.
In addition to the four alebrijes inspired by the children, Middleton created a hummingbird alebrije to honor her daughter.
"She is our hummingbird, peacefully suspended in time, then gone just as fast. To us, her spirit animal reflects change, lightness, harmony and healing," she said in a video.
All five of these custom alebrjies are part of a drawing to raise money for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. The INDUSTRY team made two of each so that the children who helped design them can have an alebrjie of their own design.
"You can use art in different ways and it can be inspirational, and it can also be healing," Tekaptl said. "So to me, this is all that and more."
The fundraiser drawing for the custom toy alebries runs May 2 to May 10. Each entry is $5 and all proceeds go to Doernbecher Children's Hospital.
Click here to enter the drawing and learn more about the fundraiser.