Wednesday, November 17, 2010

San Jose Tour - art supplies!

Yesterday, I met several friends (old and new), and we toured San José - our quest was art supplies!
Some came from Puriscal (South-West, some from near Grecia (North-West, and I cam from San Pedro (East).  We all managed to meet near the East side of La Sabana park shortly after 9 in the morning.  I count that as a minor miracle, given that we all bussed there, some for the first time...

We had a plan, and that plan included a *lot* of flexibility - something we had all cultivated in our years of living in our new home :-).  Here is the map that we used:

  • A,G = Alajuela / Grecia bus stop coming into SJ
  • P1 = Puriscal bus stop coming into SJ
  • A1 = ARCR offices; meeting place
  • Y = Yamuni store; landmark
  • * = selected stops for Sabana Cementerio (SC) bus
  • G1 = Guilá art store
  • LU = Librería Universal
  • L = Lazaro fabric store
  • PSJ = PSJ notions and craft supply store
  • C = Caja; central office for the caja health system; major stop for buses
  • NT = National Theatre
  • SP = San Pedro bus terminal (no building)
  • r = Chinese restaurant where we had lunch
  • L = Lehman's art store
  • U = Universal downtown
  • s = Soda Maxi (good food, cheapest casado I've found in downtown, at c1700)
  • e = art gallery that also frames art for you (enmarco = frame)
  • AF = Alliance Française; art gallery in their central salle 
  • G = Grecia terminal (building)
  • P = Puriscal terminal (building)
  • A = Alajuela terminal (building); Tuasa and Station Wagon are a block apart
The red lines are the routes from Puriscal and Alajuela / Grecia on the West, and from San Pedro on the East.  For this tour, the folks from the West got off before the terminals.

The blue line is the Sabana Cementario route # 2 - a very useful route to know!

We started out at Guilá.  This is a nice new branch of the chain store; the one in downtown is now closed, and all their stock moved here.  At first, it looks like you have to ask for everything, as all their stock is behind the counters.  However, as soon as you ask (or evince an interest) for anything, they invite you behind to look for yourself.  It is a very nice set up, and a very good selection.  Item of interest: 100% cotton, 180 lbs pressed watercolor paper, 32 x 41 cm - 20 pages for about c21,000.

We next went to Librería Universal.  This is a *huge* department store, with several aisles of art supplies.  Item of interest: medium tube of cadmium yellow acrylic paint c8000. (Note: bathrooms available)

Next, we got on the Sabana Cementerio bus (unusually long wait; they are usually every 4 minutes), and stopped at PSJ.  It appeared closed, but there is a button to push, and they let us in.  This is definitely the store to go to if you are outfitting a wedding party!  They had an entire wall full of packages of zippers in a rainbow of colors.  They had a huge selection of various embellishments, ribbons, thread, embroidery thread, and knitting yarn.  Then there were the items such as bells, plastic fasteners (such as used for fanny pack belts), and 12-inch wide spools of elastic.  The odd thing was that they had a minimum sale requirement - you couldn't buy anything unless it totaled c10,000 or more!  We pooled our shopping, and did it, but this is the first time I've heard of such a thing here.  We decided to skip the fabric store, Lazaro, that was right next door.  Most of us had been there before, and we were a bit short of time.  Lazaro is not just your typical fabric store - they have upholstery material, sunbrella material, and a host of specialty items.

We hoped to get to the National Theatre in time to see the MedioDía concert, but this was not to be.  The SC bus was again later than normal, and we finally got the theatre at exactly 12:10 - the concert had started, and it was too late to get in.  So, we decided to go to a Chinese restaurant a few blocks away.  The food and service was good, and I will go back again.

After lunch, we met another friend, and continued shopping.  We went into Lehman's, a department store with a large art supply section on the second floor.  Items of interest: the same watercolor paper (different brand) as Guilá for c20,000 (about $2 cheaper), the same acrylic paint as Universal for c8,250 (about 50 cents more), a very large plastic portfolio for about $15, and a *huge* selection of paper - crepe, tissue, corrugated, etc.

We decided to skip the downtown Universal, since we had already been to the Sabana store.  We walked up to the Alliance Française and looked at the art on display, then had a coffee at the cafeteria there  (Note: bathrooms available).  At 3, we decided to call it a day.  I had previously asked about framing at the art gallery down the street - they want c20,000 for framing a medium-sized watercolor with glass and matting.  I know of two other places that I want to check for pricing, so haven't done it yet.

From the Alliance Française, we walked to the SC bus stop.  The Alajuela-bound folks got off at Mercado Borbón and walked about 3 blocks to the terminal.  The rest of us got off at the Puriscal bus terminus.  The Puriscal folks caught their bus, and I caught the (other route) SC bus at Paseo Colón back past La Merced, walked up to the Escalante terminal, and was home by 4:15.

It was a very nice day, full of new experiences, chats with friends (lots of catching up!), and interesting purchases!  I can't wait to try out some of my new stuff!

----  some useful art shopping terms ----
  • paintbrush - pincel
  • paint - pintura
  • watercolor - acuarela
  • acrylic - acrílico
  • canvas - cuadro, lienzo, tela (although, I think the fellow at Guilá used a different term)
  • paper - papel
  • cotton - algodón 
  • frame - enmarco
  • matting - maria louisa
  • glass - vidrio


Julie said...

Note: map is scanned from the ARCR's ( free map

Anonymous said...

My daughter is playing Tin Man in the Beach Nuts Theatre Company performances of Wizard of Oz this week in Tamarindo. I just realized that her silver face paint contains lead. If anyone knows where to get lead free silver face paint in the San Jose area I would be so grateful!
Petra Schoep
tamspf at

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just wanted to find out if you are aware of our Art Supply Store in Escazú.

Art Depot, we are located in Multicentro Paco a shopping center across the street from the BAC San José Bank in Guachipelin, Escazú.

You can visit our online store as well at

We Offer express delivery to the beaches and other areas out of San José.

Best wishes,

Ana C Petersen

Julie said...

Thanks, Ana!
More info is always appreciated!