The central area is replete with shade trees, murals on the walls, a fountain, wooden chairs and tables, an espresso machine, and a mutt that adopted the place. Slivers of sunshine filter through the grounds projecting an air of tranquility.
Huichol Indian art gallery, you ask? The proprietors became intrigued by Huichol traditions and traveled to the Sierra Madre mountains to sell the Indians' crafts in their La Cruz gallery, including religious and ceremonial objects, crafted in weaving, embroidery, pottery and carving. Huichol art is noted for their vividly colored and patterned yarn work and beaded pieces.
The brainchilds of this magical kingdom business are Egyptian-born Aruna Piroshki and Wayland Combe-Wright who met while studying architecture in London in the 1070s As I said in an earlier post, there are some interesting and eclectic souls in La Cruz. Aruna and Wayland fit the bill. Here is the short version of their unconventional tale which took them from architecture to performance and artistic endeavors. For the long version, you will have to wait for the book which reportedly is being written by Wayland.
Their out-of-the-box life adventure began by selling samosas (deep-fried vegetable curry pastries) on a self-built fanciful bicycle food cart in London to save money to buy their first paint show horse which they named Taco. After buying another show horse, these self-taught performance artists began performing tricks with the horses and gave wagon rides at fairs and in the parks of London. The mini-circus life kept them busy, but their sights were set to travel to distant shores. Since it was difficult to purchase additional paint show horses in England, the pair contemplated traveling to the United States where these show horses were more plentiful. After evaluating all their low-cost options to get to America, such as airline travel and crewing on a sailboat, they opted instead to build a sailboat and sail it to the new world, with the added bonus of providing the stowage space to transport Wayland's woodworking tools.
Undaunted by the fact that they never built a boat before, the project was commenced -- not with a set of boat building blueprints -- but but rather relied on their own resourceful ideas designed to keep the building costs within their budget. Wayland's woodworking skills helped boost the feasibility of the venture. After 2.5 years of working with local recycled materials to keep costs down, the unique 32-foot catamaran was finally completed. It was a labor of love using wood from their soon-to-be-demolished home, canvas, and tar/paper over a pine-and-ash wood frame. With with the help of about 40 volunteers, the craft, named Tavlua, was hauled manually to the launching point in the Cotswolds. Who needs boatyard travel lifts? Tavlua is a Polynesian expression loosely meaning "two stars" used in celestial navigation. This unique vessel was described by the owners as a cross between and Irish curragh and a Polynesian catamaran. Well, whatever it was, it took them to faraway places.
After selling all their possessions in London, Aruna, Wayland, and their recently born daughter, set sail towards Central America with stops in the Canary Islands and the Barbados, where the journey stalled to do boat repairs to add to the cruising kitty. Two more years of cruising took them through the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and eventually Southern Mexico. During their short stay there, the family traveled to Guatemala and spent time with the Indians learning the indigenous art of weaving ... eventually fabricating and selling spinning wheels.
The spinning wheels also helped cement relationships with Huichol craftsmen. The couple brought the artists down from the mountain to Puerto Vallarta to teacn them how to operate the more modern spinning machines with which to craft their artwork. Huichol traditional methods employed manual spinning techniques. If the Huichol artist in-training was able to master the spinning wheel, he received one for free to take back to the village. Aruna and Wayland helped finance this effort by selling silk screened T-shirts using the Huichols' artwork patterns.
If you are wondering why the place was named The Octopus' Garden, then you need to know that the silk screening machines used to print the T-shirts were referred to as an 'octopus' in the silk screening industry due to their shape.
After initially renting the compound grounds for five years, the couple finally purchased the Jardin in 1999 and continued to make upgrades to the complex as the business evolved.
Unexpected disaster struck in May 2014. While doing repair work on the Jardin's roof structure, Wayland fell off a tall ladder. The accident resulted in critical spine damage but he endures and is in a long recovery process. The rehab prospects are slow but positive.
Following a temporary closure of the Octopus due to the accident, the Jardin del Pulpo is morphing into its next phase. After selling the silk screening machines to locals, Aruna is busy converting the space formerly occupied by the machines to a hostel with accommodations ranging from several private rooms, studios, and two dorm rooms. Visitors to La Cruz will be able to stay there after construction is completed starting at about 180 pesos a night in the dorm rooms. The Huichol gallery, cafe and upstairs studio will continue to be part of the operation.
The Pulpo may not exactly be La Cruz' answer to Esalen, but it will be attractive to budget-minded single travelers with the added bonus of community areas, a cafe, an espresso bar and the opportunity to participate in various new age activities and workshops.
What became of Tavlua which transported the couple on their unlikely journey ending in La Cruz? The vessel was taken apart and the wood was used in the construction of the original building. It became the soul of the Octopus.