Day 10 — in which there are pots and metal creatures

Most of the day was spent in San Bar­to­lo Coyotepec.

Our first stop was at the work­shop of the fam­i­ly of pot­ter Dona Rosa. The Dona Rosa invent­ed the bur­nish­ing tech­nique that pro­duces the glossy black pot­tery that the vil­lage has become known for. Her son don Valente con­tin­ues the tradition.

Here are three pots that sit out­side of the door of my room here at the Casa.

examples of black pottery
exam­ples of black pottery 

Don Valente is in his 80s. He still works every­day. The pot­ters here work with­out a wheel as we think of it. Instead they use two dish­es shaped like saucers. One placed upside down on the floor and the sec­ond placed right side up on top of it. The pot is then shaped by hand by turn­ing slowly.

setting the pot on the saucer
set­ting the pot on the saucer

cre­at­ing a pot is a mul­ti-day process. The first day the pot body is made, then after dry­ing a cou­ple of days the neck is added.

forming the neck
form­ing the neck

Anoth­er round of dry­ing and the dec­o­ra­tion (if any) is added. This is incis­ing using shaped tools. Pots can also have bits stuck on to cre­ate an applique like effect. Cut­ting away parts of the pot to cre­ate lace­work is also com­mon. (See the above pic­ture of pots in the Casa.)

incising 'grecas'
incis­ing ‘gre­cas’

The unique thing about the black pot­tery cre­at­ed in San Bor­to­lo is the glossy fin­ish. The fin­ish is cre­at­ed by tak­ing a dry, unfired pot, mak­ing the sur­face a bit damp and rub­bing it with a piece of smooth quartz. Then fir­ing the piece for 10 hours. The fin­ished piece is beau­ti­ful but frag­ile and porous. We’ve nev­er had much luck try­ing to get pieces home with­out them breaking.

burnishing the pot
bur­nish­ing the pot

The result is the glossy sur­face on the lat­tice work on this pot. 

lattice work black pot
lat­tice work black pot

orig­i­nal­ly the clay at San Bar­to­lo was used to make func­tion­al ves­sels. These are fired for 13 or 14 hours and the pots are mat­te dark grey. These pots are water­proof and durable. They also make a pleas­ant ring­ing sound when tapped. Don Valente has a set that he plays a tune on at the end of his demonstration.

fired for 13 or 14 hours
fired for 13 or 14 hours

The two pic­tures above were tak­en at the folk art muse­um near the zolo­co in San Bar­to­lo. The build­ing is anoth­er exam­ple of the fine mod­ern archi­tec­ture that being done in Mexico. 

folk art museum
folk art museum

Fire­works are a big deal and com­mon at all sorts of fies­tas here. One of the kind of freaky and cool things that they do is take fire­works into the crowds. The car in this pic­ture is a ‘mule’ that is loaded with fire­works that spark and spin. Bulls and hors­es are also com­mon shapes but any­thing is fair game.

car structure used to support fireworks
car struc­ture used to sup­port fireworks 

At the folk art muse­um we made two excel­lent discoveries. 

Miguel Ramirez, who is up in the Xochim­il­co neigh­bor­hood of the city. I’ve seen his work before but haven’t had a name to put to it. Next time I’m here I’m have a bet­ter chance of find­ing his workshop.

tin art
tin art

The oth­er dis­cov­ery is entire­ly new to me. Adol­fo Alquisiris Guer­rero. He’s a welder who works at the Pemex plant in Sali­na Cruz. Be makes things — most­ly ani­mals out of recy­cled parts. I’ll try to set up a chance to see and buy some of his work the next time we come done. 


Jim liked this pic­ture a lot. He mum­bled some­thing about grumpy kit­ties. I chose to ignore him.

folk art extends to painting
bring it, cupcake

About the Author

Lara Harriger

1 Comment

  1. Robbie

    Have you tried putting a bal­loon in the vase/pot then inflat­ing? I have received sur­gi­cal imple­ments with ‘inflat­ed to con­form’ padding. The pots look AWESOME!!!

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