Sandra and Wence Martinez of Martinez Studio have been collaborating for more than thirty years on textile design and weaving.
Martinez Studio represents more than three decades of symbiotic artmaking between weaver Wence Martinez (Oaxaca, Mexico) and mixed-media artist Sandra Martinez (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). Their collaborative creative process reflects the integration of their skills, sensitivities, and instincts, and is grounded in a sense of freedom and shared trust. Sandra’s signature glyphs and symbols reference human kinship, animals, plants, and shelter which she draws and paints on quotidian surfaces, from book pages to Tyvek. Many of her symbols appear as two halves of a whole in recognition of a shadow side that references the mystery of the world.
Together, they decide on which pieces to translate into weavings and they select a color palette from Wence’s hand-dyed wool. Wence then interprets and invigorates Sandra’s work, resulting in a weaving of his own while simultaneously retaining the originality of Sandra’s drawing. Dedicated to celebrating and preserving his Indigenous heritage, Wence has a profound understanding of his materials and an equally nuanced sense of color. When Wence weaves Sandra’s designs, both of them take part in the tradition of documenting mythological narratives in fiber. Each contributes equally and the whole is more than the sum of its parts.
In Teotitlán del Valle, a village celebrated for its hand-woven rugs and tapestries, Wence learned traditional weaving from his grandfather and father before attending Taller Nacional de Tapiz in Mexico City. There he learned wool-dyeing with indigenous plants and wove impeccable translations of paintings by Edmundo Aquino, Carlos Mérida, and Francisco Toledo. He returned to Teotitlán as head weaver at a reproductions workshop but yearned to rise above production weaving.
In 1988, Sandra, a former potter working with stream-of-consciousness drawing, challenged Wence with transforming the elemental spirit of a small ink painting into a woven artwork. Wence wove threads of hand-dyed churro wool—sheared from local sheep and spun by local elders—into their first collaborative artwork. Wence and Sandra experienced a kinship unlike any other. In 1992, they married. In 1994, they opened their first studio gallery in Wisconsin. In 2020, they opened a second studio gallery in Santa Fe. Named United States Artists Fellows in 2018, Sandra and Wence’s work is in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago; Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C.; and the Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend.