Phoenix to Mexico: Palo Santo Decor’s Journey Celebrating Mexican Artistry, Resilience & Tradition

Concetta Bondi and Mariana Narvaez, co-founders of P A L O S A N T O

Concetta Bondi and Mariana Narvaez, co-founders of P A L O S A N T O, bonded over their love for art, culture and craftsmanship during a pandemic-inspired journey throughout Mexico.

Bondi and Narvaez met while working together in Phoenix. They became close friends during their time as co-workers and stayed in touch after Narvaez relocated to Mexico. During the pandemic, Bondi and her husband made the trip down to Mexico, meeting Narvaez in Mexico City.

“A trip that was only going to take a week, took like three weeks. Because we were having such a great time and we hadn’t seen each other for six or seven years . . . we had the opportunity to travel around to see the different artisan traditions in different cities,” says Narvaez. “Originally we began searching for pieces to bring into our own homes as souvenirs, but were so inspired by what we saw that we wanted to share it with a wider audience. We wanted to share a different perspective of Mexican design and pay homage to its artisanal history”.

While on their trip around Mexico, Bondi and Narvaez visited a taller studio in a small village outside Oaxaca, where a family specializing in barro pottery inspired them both. Barro pottery dates back over 2,000 years in the Oaxaca region, its beautiful and eye-catching color comes from the natural hues of the locally-sourced raw materials. Being that it was a slow afternoon, Bondi and Narvaez had the opportunity to sit with two of the sisters who ran the taller as they worked, molding the clay pieces by hand. Despite the fact that most of the village has started to use premade molds and synthetic materials, this family stays true to their ancestral techniques and traditions. Each small treasure is made piece-by-piece, using no molds or additives.  Their love and passion for their art and heritage were stronger than all the difficulties the women had faced over the years, working in a male dominated industry. The beauty of the art, the love of their heritage and expert craftsmanship inspired Bondi and Narvaez to encapsulate their memories within P A L O  S A N T O, hoping to share their experience with the world. 

Partnering with female master artisans in small-batch and family-owned studios in Mexico, P A L O  S A N T O assists in the fostering of stable economic growth in these communities to preserve the ancient art forms that date back generations and hope to continue for generations to come. Each artisan utilizes raw materials that are native to their region in Mexico; with some of these techniques having been passed down for generations. These traditions and craftsmanship are what Bondi and Narvaez strive to showcase in the collection, hoping to honor these histories and share them with their clients in the U.S. and beyond.  

“We want to give a different view of Mexican culture and show the reality of the people who are hard workers, who really value their history and customs. Once you see what really goes into the slow design process, it’s almost like a miracle to have a piece,” says Narvaez. “It goes through almost 10 different steps before it is finished, and it is always shaped by nature. The wind, the climate, the amount of rain the region received that season, all these factors help mold each piece. Everything is handmade and there are no machines or anything. When people see that, I hope they will embrace the principles of slow design. There are some things in life that are simple and take time to complete, and that result in beautiful things or little moments that are worth the wait. We believe in the beauty of simplicity and honoring each of these small steps throughout the process.”

With a heavy focus on sustainability and Mexican culture, each piece sold by P A L O  S A N T O goes through a sustainable production process using only natural, locally-sourced, renewable materials with no added synthetic chemicals or dyes. The collections are made by hand from start to finish, taking 20 days to 15 weeks to complete. 

“Sustainability is a big part of [our brand]. The reason why we’ve paired up with all the families that we have is because they use the same processes from ancestral times, hundreds of years ago, but they have a more sustainable focus,” says Bondi. “For example, in Oaxaca, barro negro was traditionally made in wood-fired ovens and using lead. We now know that lead is dangerous both for people and the planet, and want to avoid the excessive use of lumber. The family we work with uses an oven that burns recycled oil donated from local restaurants.  Nowadays, people still want authentic traditions but we are seeing a more conscious consumer.”

P A L O  S A N T O gets its name from the Spanish word “holy wood”; the ritual of burning this holy wood is an indigenous practice that dates back thousands of years in Latin America. Traditionally used in healing ceremonies, doing so is said to cleanse space and negative energy, allowing the mind to reset, reflect and connect intimately with our personal spaces. Bondi and Narvaez founded P A L O  S A N T O on this idea, wanting to honor these sacred rituals, inspiring their ethos: “Sacred. Soulful. Slow. Sustainable”.

“Palo Santo is associated with, and this is an ancient tradition that goes back to Indigenous cultures rooted in Latin America, is the Palo Santo—that tree,” says Bondi. “The whole ritual of the burning of this sacred wood and the cleansing of the energy, the entire ritual forces us to be very present and intentional in our space, in a space that’s special . . . it’s taking that moment to slow down and to celebrate your space.”

While keeping the ancient traditions alive, P A L O  S A N T O is a woman-owned and led brand—giving a platform to the many women artisans who have faced adversity throughout history. 

“We try to work with female entirely led teams or a family-led tallere/studios. Because these traditions have, for the most part, been male-dominated since their early beginnings. These women are amazing, they’re survivors. These women have had to overcome numerous obstacles and persevere despite criticism, and even after receiving threats and abuse from other people in their own towns,” says Bondi. 

“For example, the women weavers who create our textiles, in their town these large foot looms have always been passed down from generation from male to male. So, if you were widowed or unmarried or had no other male in the household, you had no income . . . The entire local textile industry was controlled by men. This group of women decided to go out on their own despite it being a challenging road ahead, and have thrived. We want to continue to help them share their pieces with the world,” says Bondi. 

P A L O  S A N T O is a bi-national brand, headquartered in Monterrey and Scottsdale/Phoenix. Their vision is to bring a fresh, new perspective of Mexican design to the Valley. 

“The state of Arizona was part of Mexico until 1848 and remains one of the states with the highest percentage of people who identify as Hispanic/Latinx. I teach Spanish language and cultures, and a big part of my work living in Arizona is educating our students about the complexities of these heritages. Living in Arizona, it is very ironic, we are three hours from the border and our image of what Mexico really is, is widely based on stereotypes we get from the media – this extends to the design world,” says Bondi. “We want to bring a new representation of Mexican design, that is the most beautiful blend of tradition and contemporary influences—a side we feel has not been well represented outside of Mexico.”

Their mission and vision of bringing light to misleading Mexican stereotypes is close to both Bondi’s and Narvaez’s hearts. As Valley residents and lovers of Mexican culture, they hope to inspire others and bring a new perception of Mexican design and culture, contrary to the stigmas that have been damaging to this community. 

“One of our first pieces was a stunning black, matte Monterrey marble coffee table tray—it’s minimal and timeless. I love that piece and wanted to bring it back to my own home. I remember the first time I showed it to a friend, my friend was like, ‘That’s from Mexico?!’ The way she said it, she didn’t mean anything bad by it, but, her tone really made me go, ‘Wow.’ She was so shocked that this could come from a Mexican artisan,” says Bondi. “That comment really opened my eyes to the stereotypes surrounding Mexico and its design that still exist.”

“We work with a lot of local interior designers in the Valley. We love it. These are designers who are at the same time, changing stereotypes surrounding Arizona and showing that we are also a design-focused and fashion-forward place by creating sophisticated spaces that embrace the desert, translated in a contemporary way. With that, our collaborations also bring in a new generation of understanding Mexican design, and its contemporary movements and trends,” says Bondi.

As they continue to illuminate the rich history and greatness of Mexican design and artisanal heritage, Bondi and Narvaez hope to create change, reshaping perceptions and fostering a deeper understanding of the diverse, multifaceted nature of Mexican culture. Through P A L O  S A N T O, they invite us all to join in celebrating the artistry, resilience and enduring spirit of a people whose stories are woven into every thread of their meticulously crafted creations.

To learn more about P A L O  S A N T O, visit or visit their Instagram @palosanto.decor.

Photos courtesy P A L O S A N T O

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