Jose Garcia Antonio, one of Oaxaca’s best clay sculptors, participated in the 2014 International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this July. This is no small accomplishment. This juried exhibition invites only the most accomplished artisans from all over the world to show and demonstrate their craft.
Last Friday, we drove out to San Antonino Castillo Velasco as part of an all-day excursion to celebrate my friend Carol’s birthday. She wanted our first stop to be with Don Jose.
It’s dark inside the studio, atmospheric. Don Jose works intuitively, feels the clay, feels his wife’s face, the faces of his children and grandchildren. He inspires creativity for those with physical limitations.
While we were there, he received a call from TV Azteca in Oaxaca. They wanted to come out to interview and film him that afternoon. He is becoming very famous.
I remember going to his studio years ago when not many knew about him and he was far off the beaten path, long before tour guides had him on their radar to bring clients there.
I remember when we drove into the entrance of San Antonino and inquired from a moto-taxi driver if he knew where Don Jose lived. We paid the driver 10 pesos to lead us there.
I remember when I bought a life-size figure of a Juchitan woman carrying a basket on her head, hips swaying, braids hanging, skirt flowing, knowing she was too heavy to ever bring back to the USA, and putting her in the home of friends until the Oaxaca home I was to live in was completed — years later.
Each time I visit Don Jose Garcia Antonio, I am amazed how his magic hands inspire and create work his eyes cannot see. Each time, I am tempted to add something to my collection. This time, it was a pig planter, which my travel mates called Wilbur.
His daughter, Sara, makes expressive clay face-mask planters to hang on a wall. All the children work the clay. The grandchildren are growing up in this clay culture, shaping simple figures of butterflies, mermaids, and winged angels. Small treasures to pack into suitcases to remember the artist, his family and the experience of being in the arts and artisans mecca of Oaxaca.
How to Find Jose Garcia Antonio: Turn into the village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Turn right on Calle Independencia. Turn left at the first street. Go several blocks. Look on the left side of the street for the clay lion on the roof. There you are!