Challenge: Create 15 perfectly shaped pieces of pottery from one large lump of clay. You have 15 minutes. For Vicente Hernandez, the man with magic hands, it’s no problem! I recently visited the workshop of this amazing potter, who demonstrated the process from mixing the clay through creating various styles of beautiful and useful clay items.
The “mud” originates in the state of Oaxaca, and Vicente began by explaining how he cleans the clay by washing it in large barrels, strains it to remove debris, and dries it in the sun until it contains the proper amount of moisture. He chose a large chunk of clay and kneaded it on a stone table, making it look as easy as kneading bread. He offered a try to our group, and several brave ladies found that they could barely manipulate the clay!
Vicente plopped the clay on his kick wheel, and as the wheel began spinning, he instantly formed a tower. Before you could say, “I’d like to see you make a bowl,” he had completed the first one! After shaping each piece and removing it from the tower, he asked the group what they wanted him to make next, and in this manner he worked down to the bottom of the clay tower. Extremely efficient and fast!
At age 9 Vicente began to learn the craft of pottery making and said it took about five years of practice to become proficient. For 25 years he worked in a factory, churning out 1000 pieces in a 12 hour day and being paid a few centavos per piece. In 1998 he and his family decided to form their own company, Tierra Quemada, ceramica contemporanea, and Vicente was free to let his creativity shine.
You can buy (and we did!) Vicente’s wonderful ceramica at the family’s gift shop located at Labastida No. 115, Oaxaca, Oaxaca.