Category Archives: Pottery

Oaxaca’s Grand Master of Pottery Angelica Delfina Vasquez Cruz

Overlooking the Oaxaca valley at the top of the Santa Maria Atzompa hill is the pottery studio of Angelica Delfina Vasquez Cruz.  She has been recognized as one of the great masters of Oaxaca folk art by Fomento Cultural Banamex, the foundation that recognizes the best crafts people of Mexico.

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We visited Angelica at her home and studio after taking a guided visit around Monte Alban, led by our excellent licensed tour guide Rene Cabrera Arroyo who is very knowledgeable and gives an in-depth discussion of the archeological site.

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Atzompa was a satellite city of Monte Alban and it’s artisans provided the clay vessels and altar pieces for the Zapotec religious and political leaders.

The skill to learn the traditional craft is passed from generation to generation and Angelica learned from her father, who learned from his father before him.  Helping her today is her daughter (above left), an artist in her own right.  Angelica’s granddaughter, a child of about three years old, brings her tools and clay as she constructed a devil for us — one of Angelica’s favorite figures.

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Angelica works in local clay.  The colors  that decorate the pieces come from rocks that are ground on the metate (ancient stone hand grinder) to make a powder, that is then reconstituted with water.

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The cookware, all lead-free, is constructed in the traditional method and is then wood-fired.   A gas kiln is used to fire the more elaborate, larger figures that can be used outdoors for garden art.

Contact: Voces del Barro, Angelica Delfina Vasquez Cruz, Ceramics, Independencia 637, Santa Maria Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico, Tel. 951-558-9061, Cellular 044-951-102-0149.  Email: vocesdelbarro@outlook.com

 

 

Don Jose Garcia Antonino: In the Pottery Studio

If you blink you will miss the turn-off to the village of San Antonino Castillo Velasco, just before arriving in Ocotlan de Morelos, where our friend Don Jose Garcia, known as the blind potter, lives and works. Some years ago, Don Jose developed cataracts and without expensive treatment, he lost most of his vision.

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Along with his wife, son, daughter and son-in-law, the family studio is a folk art haven for primitive pottery fired in a wood kiln that represents, for the most part, Don Jose’s vision of Oaxaca village life. He has magic hands and has taught his family well.

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Usually, people make this visit on busy Ocotlan market day Friday. Yesterday, Tuesday, it was quieter and we had the route to ourselves, except for the occasional donkey straying onto the highway.  During our visit we discovered hidden treasures: sculpted bulls, marigold decorated planters, face urns, regal figures of Tehuana women carrying bouquets of lilies, pregnant mermaids and proud couples entangled in dance.

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I always love bringing Oaxaca visitors here. The family appreciates the support and people are always mesmerized by the creativity. There are plenty of small things that aren’t too heavy that can be wrapped and brought home in a suitcase. I guarantee you will love the mermaids playing musical instruments and the jumble of clay figures everywhere.

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Allow a full day to go, return, visit and have lunch at Azucenas Zapotecas in San Martin Tilcajete.  You will want to stop at the women’s cooperative in San Antonino to browse the intricately embroidered blouses, at the wood-carving studios in San Martin Tilcajete, and look at Rodolfo Morales‘ stunning murals in the Ocotlan municipal building. If you have time, visit Abigail Mendoza in Santo Tomas Jalieza, too.

How to get there:  Travel down the Ocotlan highway.  Pass San Martin Tilcajete, the wood carving village. Turn right at the sign for San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Go to Libertad and turn right.  Turn left on Independencia.  Look for #24 painted on the door. On the roof are two large clay lions to guard the gate.  Knock hard!

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Tour Puebla, Mexico: Cooking & Culture, From the Humble to the Divine

August 13-18, starting at $895 per person double occupancy–

  • Chiles en Nogada Cooking Class
  • Sumptuous Dinner Party in a Private Historic Home
  • Elegant Dining and Neighborhood Eating
  • Flea Market and Antique Shopping
  • Museums, Churches, Archeology, History

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Puebla, Mexico, is a short two hours from Mexico City by bus direct from the international airport. It is one of my favorite Mexican cities and I often stop here going to and from Oaxaca. It is the home of Talavera tile, Cinco de Mayo, Mole Poblano, chiles en nogada, and cemitas. It has a weekend antiques and flea market that draws crowds, gilded churches, Baroque architecture with pastel and tiled facades topped with white plaster meringue, great chefs, outstanding restaurants, and ancient archeological sites.  At 7,000 feet altitude, visitors enjoy moderate temperatures year ’round, even in summer!

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Your five night, 6-day visit includes:

  • 5 nights lodging in a lovely, highly rated historic center hotel
  • guided visits to famed, certified Talavera ceramics studios
  • visits to extraordinary museums like Museo Amparo
  • chiles en nogada cooking class in a private home featured in Mexicocina with market tour, and lunch
  • sumptuous candlelit dinner that evening presented by our cooking teachers/hosts
  • gourmet dining and neighborhood/market fare experiences
  • time on your own to explore the incredible weekend antique/flea market
  • in-depth visits to archeological and religious sites of Cholula and Tonantzintla
  • Plus, lots more.

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Puebla is Mexico’s fourth largest city, cosmopolitan without being overwhelming.  It is relaxed, accessible, and easily experienced in several days. Known as the ‘City of the Angels’” or Angelopolis, Puebla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was founded in 1531 as a purely colonial Spanish city built from the ground up—not on top of an existing indigenous temple — at the trading crossroads between the port of Veracruz and Mexico City.  More than 5,000 Baroque-designed buildings date mostly from the 16th century and are covered in handcrafted Talavera.

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Puebla is also about shopping! The highlight is Talavera pottery. And, there are many other local crafts: Tree of Life clay figures, bark paper paintings, woven and embroidered textiles from the Sierra Norte, red clay cooking vessels and dinnerware, and unique onyx and marble sculptures. You can find these and much more at the traditional markets, the stalls that line Puebla’s beautiful plazas, and at the weekend flea and antique market.

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Puebla is known throughout Mexico for its excellent cuisine, a blend of pre-Hispanic, Arabic, French and Spanish influences.  There are many outstanding Tesoros de Mexico-rated (Mexico’s highest) restaurants, and we’ll be dining at a few!

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We’ll also go to Cholula, an indigenous village just outside Puebla with the world’s widest ancient pyramid, Quetzalcoatl. The Spanish built the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Remidios with its amazing 24-carat gold basilica atop the pyramid.  On a clear day you can see snow-capped Popocatepetl, an active volcano, showing off his powerful plume.

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Preliminary Itinerary:

  • Day 1, August 13: Travel to Puebla, check-in to our historic center hotel
  • Day 2, August 14: Chiles en Nogada Cooking class with market tour & lunch, followed by sumptuous private dinner
  • Day 3, August 15: Cholula archeology site, Tonantzintla church, and Talavera de la Reyna ceramics
  • Day 4, August 16: Antiques and flea market, museums, market lunch
  • Day 5, August 17: Gallery hopping and shopping, fine dining
  • Day 6, August 18: Departure

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Our stops will include:

  • Antique market & Barrio del Artista
  • Museo Amparo
  • Talavera galleries and shops
  • Tonantzintla Templo de Santa Maria
  • La Purificadora Hotel, an architectural wonder, designed by Ricardo and Victor Legorreta
  • Uriarte and Talavera de la Reyna ceramics studios

We include private transportation on a day-trip to Cholula, Tonantzintla, and Talavera de la Reyna ceramics studios.

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Transportation to Puebla:  Puebla is easily accessed by Estrella Roja first class bus direct from the Benito Juarez International Airport (Terminal One and Terminal Two) and from Oaxaca on ADO.  If you are coming from the U.S. be sure to reserve your round trip air travel to/from Mexico City. When you register, we will give you complete “how to get there” information.

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What is Not Included:

  • meals, snacks, alcoholic beverages
  • entrance fees to local museums/attractions
  • transportation to/from Mexico City
  • transportation to/from Puebla
  • mandatory international health/accident insurance
  • tips for hotels, meals and other services 

Cost:

  • $895 per person double occupancy, shared room and bath
  • $1,195 per person single occupancy, private room and bath

Reservations and Cancellations

A 50% deposit will guarantee your spot.  The final payment for the balance is due on or before July 1, 2014.  Payment shall be made by PayPal.  We will be happy to send you an itemized invoice.

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Please understand that we make lodging and other arrangements months in advance of the program.  Deposits or payments in full are often required by our hosts.  If cancellation is necessary, please tell us in writing by email.   After July 1, no refunds are possible.  However, we will make every possible effort to fill your reserved space or you may send a substitute.  If you cancel on or before July 1, we will refund 50% of your deposit.  We ask that you take out trip cancellation, baggage, emergency evacuation and medical insurance before you begin your trip, since accidents happen.

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Required–Travel Health/Accident Insurance:  We require that you carry international accident/health/emergency evacuation insurance.  Proof of insurance must be sent at least two weeks before departure.  If you do not wish to do this, we ask you email a PDF of a notarized waiver of responsibility, holding harmless Norma Hawthorne and Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  Unforeseen circumstances happen!

To register, email us at  normahawthorne@mac.com.  If you have questions, send us an email. We accept payment with PayPal only. Thank you.

This workshop is produced by Norma Hawthorne, Oaxaca Cultural Navigator LLC.  We reserve the right to modify the itinerary.

 

 

 

Extraordinary: Yanhuitlan, Oaxaca and Ceramic Artist Manuel Reyes

Off the beaten path and definitely a must-see, Santo Domingo Yanhuitlan is a small Mixtec pueblo located about an hour-and-a-half north of Oaxaca city, off the Carretera Nacional toll road to Mexico City.

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It is the home of an extraordinary Dominican Church whose massive stone architecture is reminiscent of the finest European churches, complete with flying buttresses and elegant arched ceilings. Six thousand indigenous people constructed it beginning in the mid-16th century.

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Ceramic artist, sculptor and painter Manuel Reyes lives here, too, with his wife Marisela, also an accomplished artist, and their two children. They are what draw us to this place since their work is not sold in Oaxaca city. They have been exhibited in galleries throughout the United States and recognized in numerous contemporary art journals and books.

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Manuel understudied with potters from throughout Oaxaca state and has been working with clay for fifteen years.  He uses a gas kiln and fires his work at 900-1,200 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, unusual for the region where most clay work is low fire, cooked in a shallow wood-fire kiln.  Manuel gets his red clay from pits in San Jeronimo Silacayoapilla, not far from his home in Tlaxiaco.  He says the clay from here is the strongest, the best.

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Yanhuitlan is Marisela’s home.  This is where they have created their life and work together.  The children are also collaborating, making small clay figures and painting on canvas.

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The clay is painted with natural mineral pigments that Manuel gets from the local region.  Some of his work is primitive.  Other pieces are highly polished polychrome with three or four colors.

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Pre-Hispanic designs on clay come from pottery shards that Manuel finds in the region.

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Marisela and Manuel invite us to join them for lunch.  It is a homemade red mole with rice, black beans, fresh tortillas, and another type of tortilla, rougher, denser, made with wheat flour by Marisela’s mother.  I pass on the mezcal because I’m driving!  The head sculpture is a napkin holder.  Magnifico.

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The church is one of the most important colonial sites in Mexico. Why was it constructed in this tiny town that seems to  have little or no importance today?  Yanhuitlan was on a major pre-Hispanic trade route and the Mixtec temple there was a very important indigenous religious site.

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The Spanish imported the European silk worm and Yanhuitlan became the center of silk cultivation for export.  Silk, along with cochineal, made Yanhuitlan an important economic center.  Hence, this imposing church — extraordinary and definitely worth the visit in its own right.  Note the Mixtec carving embedded into the church wall.  A practice for attracting and converting locals.

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Couple the stop with a visit to the home studio of ceramic artist and sculptors Manuel and Marisela Reyes and you have a very satisfying day-long excursion to explore the art and creativity that is Oaxaca.

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How to get there:  Go north from Oaxaca on the Cuota–toll-road–to Mexico City.  Exit at Nochixtlan.  Turn left and go over the toll road bridge.  Continue northwest. Follow the road signs to Yanhuitlan.  The church can be seen from several miles away.  To find Marisela and Manuel Reyes, go to Aldama Street which faces the side entrance of the church.  Drive until the end.  Their house is across from the Calvario church (metal dome), which is part of the original convent.  coloresdeoaxaca@yahoo.com.mx or call 951-562-7008 for an appointment.

Special thanks to Francine, Jo Ann and Tom for guiding me there!

Sunday Tlacolula Market: Getting There, Being There

Every Sunday, with the exception of Easter, all the Teotitlan del Valle buses and collectivos go back and forth from the village to the tianguis at Tlacolula de Matamoros.  If you want to get from Oaxaca City to Teotitlan on a Sunday, that’s a different story (see below).

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The regional street market draws thousands of sellers and shoppers from throughout the Valles Centrales de Oaxaca.   It is a confusion of blue and green tarps that cover probably ten square blocks of the town center, a protection from sun and rain.  It is also a cacophony of stuff: farm tools, meats, vegetables, household staples, garden plants and tourist treasures.

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I’ve been to this market enough times to recognize the regulars. Among my favorites are the sellers of brightly colored plastic woven baskets, embroidered aprons, and dried hibiscus flowers that I use to make agua de jamaica (ha-my-kah).

Vendors haul their goods wrapped in the plastic tarps they will use to cover their stalls.  Most will use the public vehicles provided by their villages, all pointed to Tlacolula on Sunday.

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It is wonderful to catch the bus at the corner of my street and join the pack. At 11 a.m. it’s hard to find a seat unless you get on at the village market origination point.  Today, my traveling companion is my eight-year-old niece Ixcel Guadalupe, who we call Lupita.  She is wearing her best Sunday-go-to-church-dress, adorned with the green felt flower we made together the day before.

Today, my shopping list is a pretty mundane: a bell for the front gate, a rope to hang it, a tightly woven bamboo basket with tray lid to adapt as a packing container for the gifts of mezcal bottles.  I’m always open to whatever else may present itself.

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I have in mind to get Lupe a smaller version of my shopping basket and perhaps a new apron.  First, we come across a costumed Pancho Villa selling art posters of the revolutionary army.  We look and move on.

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What catches my eye is gorgeous black clay pottery that I recognize from the  village of San Bartolo de Coyotepec. But, these pots are different, more authentically rustic, with lots of interesting variegation in the clay.  My dad was a potter and I know pottery!  I ask the vendor about them.  As I suspected, he hand-makes these in the old waterproof style originally used for holding mezcal. Hand-polished. Beautiful.  I bought a large one for 400 pesos (that’s about $32 USD).  He invited me to come visit him.  I extend the invitation to you:

Leopoldo Barranco, Calle Galiana #3, San Bartolo de Coyotepec.  No phone. Leopoldo is home all day during the week, he says.  A lovely man, definitely worth supporting this ancient craft.  His pots are much more interesting, in my opinion, than the commercially produced pieces one sees all over town.

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These tools (above) are all hand-forged.  The picks are incredibly sharp.  I bought two of the golden bells, and two stakes with rings that I am using to secure my roof-top laundry line.

DanceFeather_Aeromex-10After lunch at Comedor Mary (opposite church side-street on permanent market side) and wandering around, Lupita and I stop for ice cream at Neveria Rosita.  She has tuna (hot pink fruit of the nopal cactus) with lime sorbet.  I order chocolate and tuna.  (Both these places are clean and the food is excellent.)

By this time, I’m hauling the clay pot, the basket, the metal stakes, and bells.  She is carrying two aprons in her little basket.  I decide it’s easier and faster to take the Teotitlan collectivo back to the village.  The collectivo station is behind the Tlacolula Zocalo. Turn right, then left. Or ask anyone!

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When we get home at 4 p.m., we are greeted by a herd of grazing toros in the field next door.  Now, it’s time to pack those bottles of mezcal!

Getting to Tlacolula from Teotitlan del Valle by bus:  All the village buses go to Tlacolula on Sundays.  They run about every 30 minutes starting early in the morning. Catch it either at the mercado or anywhere along Av. Benito Juarez. Cost is 7 pesos (under 10 cents) each way. Last bus leaving Tlacolula for Teotitlan is at 5 p.m.

The collectivos leave from the parking lot on Benito Juarez.  They go when they are filled with five people — two in front (plus driver) and three in the back.  Take the back seat if you get the chance.  Much more comfortable.  Cost is 5 pesos one way per person.

Getting to Teotitlan from Oaxaca on a Sunday:  You can take a private taxi that will bring you right into town to your particular destination for 250 pesos. For 10 pesos, catch a bus at the baseball stadium headed toward Tlacolula or Mitla.  Ask to get off at the Teotitlan crucero (crossroads).  Take a collectivo, or bus or moto-taxi from the crossroads into town.  Don’t pay more than 10 pesos for the moto!  The bus will cost 7 pesos and the collectivo 5 pesos.