Alaska, Mexico and Beyond…

“One Journey Leads to Another”

Archive for the tag “pottery”

Popular Art Museum

Fanciful alebrijes, exquisitely detailed black pottery, stunning textiles, and other wonderful works of art await the visitor’s viewing pleasure in the Museum of Popular Art Oaxaca.

Click on any photo to view as a slide show.

The artists of San Bartólo Coyotepec, where the museum is located, are famous for their black pottery (barro negro).  After forming the brown clay vases, bowls and characters entirely by hand,  potters using small knives and other specialized tools cut in surface designs and see-throughs. The clay changes to a pearly black color as it is fired. 

Black Pottery Vase

Black Pottery Vase

Click on any photo to view the gallery as a slide show.

Sometimes outlandish, often humorous, but always gracefully carved and vividly painted, alebrijes hold the power to make the viewer gasp with astonishment at the meticulous hand painting or smile at the whimsy of the creator.

Fantasy Creature

Fantasy Creature
Photo by Peter Martin

Click on any photo to view gallery as a slide show.

Fiber artists of southern Mexico are well-known for producing gorgeous textiles that are used for clothing, bags, tablecloths, and bedspreads. Artisans weave with backstrap looms, table looms, and floor looms, and they often decorate their weavings with colorful hand embroidery.

Click on any photo to view as a slide show.

Naptime in the Museum

A friend, Peter Martin, who was visiting the museum at the same time that we were, generously gave me permission to use some of his photos. His name appears in their captions.

Magic Hands

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.

Clay into Beauty

Clay into Beauty

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!

It's harder than it looks!

It’s harder than it looks!

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.

What a Pleasure to Drink from these Cups!

What a Pleasure to Drink from these Cups!

You can buy (and we did!) Vicente’s wonderful ceramica at the family’s gift shop located at Labastida No. 115, Oaxaca, Oaxaca.

Oaxaca Pottery Exhibit

Twenty years of searching for pottery in villages of Oaxaca, some of which were so remote they were not even on maps, has resulted in an enormous collection of traditional styles of pots. Eric Mindling created a wonderful exhibit of samples from his collection that visitors can enjoy at the Centro de Artes San Agustín (CASA) in San Agustín Etla.

captionEntire pottery exhibit in Centro de Artes San Augustín

Entire pottery exhibit in Centro de Artes San Augustín

The pieces represent 36 styles of pottery from 60 villages of Oaxaca. Styles changed from region to region, as did the methods for creating them. Eric stated that many of the styles were passed down through families from generation to generation, and it’s possible that the first family member to make a particular style lived 3700 years ago! Many styles have been in continual production in Oaxaca for 400 years.

Exquisite Hand Painted Pots

Exquisite Hand Painted Pots

During his many years of traveling deep into the mountains of Oaxaca, learning about the people’s lives and the history and use of their products, Eric developed a deep admiration for the skilled artisans who created simple yet beautiful and utilitarian pottery.

Eric’s book, “Barro y fuego, El arte de la alfarería de Oaxaca,” (Spanish only at this time) tells the story of Oaxacan potters. Even if you don’t read Spanish, the superb photography depicts all the processes and artisans at work.

“Oaxaca has a rich heritage that has been unappreciated for centuries and deserves to be recognized. It’s time to celebrate this pottery and learn the wisdom of the artisans.”  Eric Mindling.

Note: I first met Eric when on a tour with his company, “Traditions Mexico.” During the tour (Fiber Arts of the Oaxacan Coast) we traveled to several villages where rural folk artisans of indigenous Oaxaca and Guerrero live and produce their extraordinary weavings. Eric’s great respect for the people and the excellent rapport he has established with them creates an easy-going atmosphere where villagers and visitors feel comfortable sharing their lives. Check out

Post Navigation