The Pottery of Tonalá, Jalisco
The tradition of burnished ceramics in Tonalá goes back to pre-Hispanic times. Works from Tonalá are in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London! Today, artists there have expanded their designs, their surface decorations, and their range of colors, but carefully preserve distinctive Tonalá traditions. Any one of their pieces is a singular work of art. Several Tonalá artists have been widely rewarded for their innovations, winning competitions, and selling work to major collections. “If these were paintings,” says gallery owner Shacter, “they would be thousands of dollars, but ceramics is still reasonably priced.”
The Pottery of San Agustín, Oapan Guerrero
In the mountains of Guerrero, in a small village so remote that it does not appear on maps of Mexico or on GPS, a group of families carry on a tradition of ceramic art that is hundreds of years old and that has been passed from father to son and mother to daughter for many generations. The work is completely distinctive and utterly “Mexican!” The figures are burros, pigs, turkeys and other birds, men on horseback carrying water jugs, churches with gatherings of villagers in the plaza, and the village’s trademark tall, thin figures with faces that resemble the villagers themselves.
The tall, thin clay figures the potters of Oapan, Guererro, have been creating for many generations are called “reinas,” queens. All the pieces are painted with village scenes like weddings, fields being plowed and planted, chickens and pigs being fed — the everyday life of these villagers. The potters mine clay from abundant local sources and decorate the pieces with red iron oxide, which they also source and prepare locally. Nowhere else on the planet are people making work that is anything like the large ollas, animals, tall figures, and village scenes created by these families.
Jaguars from San Cristóbal Chiapas
Artists in the village of Amatenango, just outside of San Cristóbal, Chiapas, have long been known for their dramatic jaguar jars, sculpted jaguars, and traditional ceramic roosters. The booths that line the highway near the village are heartbreaking for traditional folk art collectors, because many artists in the town have abandoned the traditional work in favor of garishly painted, molded decorative items. However, there are artists in the village who are still making wonderful traditional jaguars, ollas, and roosters. These are among the best examples of folk art, carrying forward decades old village traditions.