Dolores Porras, Folk Potter Icon, Passes From Us on All Saints Day, November 1, 2010

What could I do to hang on a bit more to my memories of Dolores Porras?  I had visited her home in Atzompa, a pottery village on the outskirts of Oaxaca city, on numerous occasions.  I had come to know her late in life when her pottery style was well developed and she had created a following of collectors and admirers from around the world.  (See Wellesley College Professor Lois Wasserspring’s book, Oaxacan Ceramics: Traditional Folk Art by Oaxaca Women for reference.)  Then, she was prolific and her shelves were packed with sirenas (mermaids) sculpted and painted on the clay walls of vessels, urns, plates, and anything else that would allow a breast or nose to take form.

Sirena by Dolores Porras Circa 1970's

I have come to the conclusion that all of Dolores’ female images are related.  They are like sisters and cousins.  One wears a different color pair of earrings or her tail flares in an opposite direction and is adorned with a contrasting color.  Perhaps they are self-portraits — a common approach by self-taught artists who learn their craft from family members and village mentors.

I just acquired this vase (first photo above).  I purchased it from a friend who lives locally here in North Carolina because I wanted to have Dolores with me at home.  My other pieces are safely nestled in my Oaxaca bedroom at the Chavez casa — too fragile, I think, to ship. She belongs in both places that I love, Oaxaca and North Carolina.

Sirena in the movement of sunlight

Dolores was suffering from Parkinsons and was wheel-chair bound unable to work for the last year.  Her family sold off all her pottery in 2009.  I cried when I heard by email from Dr. Wasserspring that she had passed, although rumors were rampant during the last six months that she had succumbed earlier.  My tribute to her is this brief testament to her talent and generosity.

Dolores Porras, March 2009

There are moments in life when someone touches you.  Perhaps there is a link between my father, a potter, and Dolores.  They shared the same craft, the same affinity for translating their world into something solid and substantial that would endure beyond death.

Face or Breast? Folk art pottery by Dolores Porras, 2006

I can turn this three-dimensional pot in any direction and always see something different.  The perspective of shape and profile is confusing.  Is it a face or breast?

My Dolores piece at home in Oaxaca

This is a more recent piece with stronger colors and more defined and articulated painting and sculpture.

Jar with Emerging Faces

It is as if these figures are being born from clay.  I just love the allegory of life being formed from a ball of clay — the story of creation, a bibliography.

14 responses to “Dolores Porras, Folk Potter Icon, Passes From Us on All Saints Day, November 1, 2010

  1. rolando regino porras

    mil gracias por no olvidar a tan admirable mujer

  2. Gracias por hablar cosas tan hermosas de mi madre. thank you

  3. My husband had a business trip to Oaxaca in 2005. I tagged along and planned to spend time at the pool. An elderly lady guest chatted with me poolside and she shared that she came to Oaxaca every year for over 20 years and each year purchased pots from Dolores. She suggested if I did only one thing, I should visit the studio. I hired a driver to take me out there and had a wonderful visit with Dolores and her son. I have three beautiful pieces. Oaxaca is a treasure trove of culture and craftmanship. I hope to return there one day. In the meantime I enjoy my pieces from Dolores.

    • Hi Pauline. Thank you for sharing this memory. It is a special one to hang on to. so often people touch us in our lives when we least expect it. Dolores was one of those people. Through us and so many others she continues to endure. Have you seen the documentary film made by potter Michael Peed. He knew Dolores well, had film and photos, and recently produced a movie about her.

  4. Such sad news, but thanks for your lovely post. I met Dolores Porras during my first trip to Oaxaca in 1990. Over the years, I bought several of her pots, and introduced several friends to her work. I always admired her art, and the genius that she demonstrated in introducing her own, distinctive style. I’m very sad that she’s no longer with us, and grateful for what she accomplished.

  5. I never knew about Dolores until I read your post. It seems that she was a true national treasure. Like all artists, she will be immortalized through her work.
    Thank you for sharing her with us.


  6. We have one of her beautiful pots and treasure it. There are fewer and fewer great artisans left.

  7. On my very first trip to Mexico in 1989 I bought a pot in Oaxaca with her name on it, having no idea who she was. It remains a treasure of my pottery collection. Thanks for letting us know about her life.

  8. Seeing this post made me very sad this morning.
    Dolores was the most beautiful woman I have ever met……both inside and out. I’d always hoped to be able to get back to Oaxaca to see her again.

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