Catherine Robles Shaw

Santa Kateri Retablo

9.25 x 16 inches

As a Santera (Saint Maker), I hope to preserve some of the unique traditions of my Hispanic culture. Retablos are the story tellers of my ancestors. They are the natural extension of the beauty and simplicity of our Spanish lives. My husband, Michael and I aspire to represent our work with as much historic accuracy as possible.

My art process uses the same materials that were used in the 18th and 19th centuries. Retablos are flat hand carved wooden boards made from local woods, such as pine and aspen. Bultos are three dimensional carvings made of cottonwood root and local woods. Next I coat the piece with gesso, which is made from gypsum and rabbit skin glue. This is the foundation for the natural paints. I use plant and insect extracts as well as mineral colored earth’s for my paints. The painted piece is then coated with the Pinion Sap Varnish which is made by dissolving pitch nuggets in grain alcohol (mula). The finished pieces are waxed and prepared for display. Each piece is one of a kind.

Santa Kateri is the only Native American Indian Saint. She is patroness of the Environment and People in Exile. She was born in 1656, an Algonquin, and died in 1680. She had been orphaned by smallpox.