RYAN CALLAHAN (LEFT); YREINA FLORES ORTIZ (RIGHT AND BACKGROUND)
Yreina Flores Ortiz
ONE DAY, WHILE PLAYING with paper and
scissors, Yreina Flores Ortiz noticed that the
snowflake she had made resembled the beautiful banners she had seen at religious and social
events in the Mexican-American community
where she was raised. Instantly, she began
making her own banners.
Now she is the owner—and chief artist—
of Ay Mujer, a business that sells banners and
32 ;e Costco Connection MARCH 2013
other varieties of papel picado, as this traditional
Mexican art is known. (The term literally means
“embroidered paper.”) Business has been so
successful that she was recently able to hire
her brother and her husband. Among her most
famous clients are Martha Stewart Weddings
magazine and the Food Network’s Giada at
Home, hosted by Giada De Laurentiis.
To make a design, Ortiz first draws a pattern by
hand. The patterns are extraordinarily intricate. “I like
them to look like lace from far away,” she says. She
then lays it over a stack of perhaps 15 sheets of
tissue paper and cuts through the papers by hand.
Mexican artists traditionally used chisels, which Ortiz
does on occasion, but she prefers to use an X-Acto
knife, which allows her more artistic freedom.
Mary Ellen Perry
Ortiz, who lives with her husband and two
children in her hometown of Indio, California, is
grateful to her own parents for two reasons. First,
they didn’t own a television, which forced her to
spend her time more creatively, and second, they
named her after a Latino artist friend, which Ortiz
believes in some way must have inspired her.
She is proud that her work is original. She
says, “I really respect traditional artists in Mexico
who make this, so I don’t copy any of their designs.
Just because you’re in another country doesn’t
mean the design didn’t originate with someone.”
She also enjoys introducing her work into new and
different markets. About 30 percent of her sales
go to Australia. She has no idea why, but says,
“It’s wonderful. It’s exciting.”—Fran Schumer