Tuesday, April 2 – TeziutlÁn, Puebla
On our six-hour drive to Teziutlán, we listened to The White Road, all about porcelain, by the author of The Hare with the Amber Eyes. It’s beautifully written, and very interesting, especially if you worked with porcelain for fifteen years, as Mayer did. Teziutlán is where one of Mayer’s main antiques “pickers” lives, our dear friend Alexandro. He often drives to us with a truck full of items, but Mayer likes to see the whole warehouse.
The last time we were in Teziutlán was 2013. I wrote this:
“It seems as though the town fathers picked least likely location for a town. It’s about 5500 feet above sea level in a range of mountains called the Sierra Puebla. We could see as we approached it that the whole town is built on a series of mountains and valleys, mountains and valleys. It reminded me of a Virginia mining town. The whole town is built, not on one mountainside, but a whole series of them, divided by deep valleys, where there is also some civilization. I don’t think I saw a flat stretch of ground anywhere. Only inside a building was it level. Often long steps climbed way up to a house, and all the streets were up or down a hill. One result was beautiful, far vistas all over the place, across a valley to the mountain on the other side, or from one mountaintop to the next.”
Wednesday, April 3 – Xalapa
We woke up to sunshine and warm weather. Whew. And now we can see the mountains and valleys we remember from before. Our GPS led us right to the messy, cluttered warehouse of Alexandro (Mayer: A lot of this stuff should go to the dump). But Mayer sleuths out the treasures: some really great old ceramic carnival animals, antique tools, and several old trunks. Then, up the steep hill to Carlos’s house, Alexandro’s brother. I bet people in this town have fewer heart attacks. They must all be in good shape climbing these hills all day long. Carlos’s place was a little tidier, and we found several of the old puppets, birds that are an important part of the puppet show, and the fabulous folk painted boxes that house the puppets, plus a great San Miguel and a San Antonio, old santos. We don’t have to put any of this in our van. Alexandro will drive it over to us on his next trip.
In the great way of Mexicans, Carlos insisted on leading us through town to the highway to Xalapa (extremely helpful), and we were on our way for the hour and a half drive to Gustavo’s.
We arrived in time for a light supper and wonderful conversation with Gustavo and Veronica. I adore this man. I feel great warmth and affection for him. He is a truly wonderful conversationalist. He is comfortable enough with Mayer to tease him in a very deadpan way. We had a lively and funny conversation about a letter they both received from the Santa Fe gallery owner, asking for a contribution to their blog, “C File.” We talk about other ceramists, about a trip we all might take to Finland in 2021 for the International Academy of Ceramic Arts (of which Mayer is now a member, thanks to Gustavo’s nomination), about Obrador, about his and Veronica’s new relationship. They are very happy together. Me: Do you like all the changes Veronica has made in the house? Gustavo: I love it and I hate it. (He’s a control freak, so he did not have to explain this. We all got it right away.)
Thursday, April 4 – Gustavo Pérez and Veronica
We always know that Gustavo is pleased with the amazing number of pots Mayer is able to sell out of his gallery. But Gustavo is very low key and not given to praise or shows of enthusiasm. But this morning at breakfast (yummy that he prepared), he went into some detail about how extraordinary he feels Mayer’s gallery is. He told that a gallery where he has a show on the Left Bank in Paris sold three pots out of the show. “But this gallery, way out of town on a dirt road, filled with folk art, selling fifty pots, it is a phenomenon.” And he talked about why, about the fact that Mayer can talk so knowledgeably about both Gustavo and about clay. He says other gallery owners do not do that. Again, it was not a big show of enthusiasm. It was more like a statement of facts. But it made Mayer feel very good.
Then we headed over to the studio where Mayer and I selected some of the “taller” pieces that Gustavo designs but the assistants make in replicas. We are out of them in the gallery. The assistants will pack and send them to us so we don’t have to take up room in the van. – Then we got to watch Gustavo creating a piece, with commentary all along the way. I took some notes for my next Atención article. Really fun and fascinating.
Around the edges of all this, I’m getting quite a bit of time on my computer and am feeling quite on top of my own work. Nice!
They are very big on comida, so we drove over to this most gorgeous place near them. I guess it’s sort of a shopping center, but separate buildings all set in a spectacular, huge property, lush with tropical vegetation. We picked one of the several restaurants there but were a bit disappointed in the food. But still more great conversation, from discussions about human nature to travel to lifestyles.
Later that night, we walked in the dark four blocks in this very rural, dirt and cobblestone streets, jungle-like area on a warm, balmy evening to the local beer pub. I love this place and all year, think about the delicious stout they serve. Again, I was not disappointed, accompanied by nachos, and more fun conversations. The place is run by an American, Mike, who is very happy with his success now after a slow start. We had a long chat with him. He is also a rick climber. The pub is a big old barn of a place with a lovely garden out back for more seating and great art on the walls. And delicious home brewed beer.
Friday, April 5
We enjoyed more wonderful stories from Gustavo over a leisurely breakfast he and Veronica made us, with mammy in the fruit bowl. Mmm. This time we heard about his friendship with Vicente Rojo, and shared stories about times in Barcelona. We hope to make it to the opening of his show there in early October, when we plan to be in Europe. With Gustavo, I feel like we are immersing ourselves deep into the art world of Mexico and the ceramic life of the whole world. He knows everyone, and in ceramics, Mayer also has much to contribute. Hearing them talk is so engrossing.
Hugs farewell, and we headed for our next destination: San Cristóbal, but not in one day. For dinner, we stopped at our favorite fish place on a beautiful reservoir. For appetizer, they serve chips with this super delicious local farm cheese and beans. Soo good. We had fresh fish with garlic, perfectly cooked, moist and delicious!
Now we are listening to News of the World, a delightful short novel.
We made it as far as Tuxtla Gutiérrez where we stayed in a luxurious Hilton Garden Hotel.
Saturday, April 6.
We are not far from the Casa de Artesanías de Chiapas, so of course we stopped in. The shop was disappointing with too much of the more kitschy local art, but the small museum upstairs did give us the names of some new artists we’d like to find.
The drive to our favorite hotel in San Cristóbal was only a couple of hours: Hacienda Don Juan.
An Unforgettable Experience of México