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The Peninsula Times Tribune

Wings and Walls of Color

Peninsula Artist Uses Butterflies as His Medium

By Gina Slade

Upon entering the South American plantation, one is immediately surrounded by the millions of morphidae, nymphalidae and papilionidae butterflies that flutter about with careless abandon.

The warm humid South American air fills the greenhouse as a wall of endless shapes and colors cascade down to rest on the vines and branches in this man-made environment.

Life is relatively easy for these pampered butterflies. Life is also short -- approximately thirty days.

And when old-age hits, a natural death soon follows.

The beautifully - winged bodies are then carefully gathered up off the floor by the plantation workers, who identify and ship the butterflies out to collectors and distributors around the world.

This is where San Mateo resident Steven Albaranes enters the picture. Albaranes is an artist who sculpts brilliantly colored works using the real exotic butterflies as his medium.

What began as merely a one time personal project has blossomed into a money-making hobby for Albaranes, who works out of his converted workshop/garage.

"When I had completed one for myself, I had so much fun doing it, I really wanted to do another one," said Albaranes. "People just asked 'can you make one for me and how much would it cost' and so on. It just gave me a reason to keep doing it."

Although his work is mostly on a large scale, working primarily with interior designers, Albaranes has created a line of domed butterfly gift items that are available through retail outlets.

Each of the domes contains from one to eight butterflies, which retail for $50 and up, depending on the size and variety of the butterflies.

The majority of his creations are made to the exact specifidcations the customer, whether it be and interior designer or a private buyer.

The customer chooses the size and the color of the butterflies from Albaranes' elaborate selection, and the rest is left to the artist. This is when Albaranes really shines.

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