Tag Archives: clay

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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Shop Mexico–Josefina Aguilar Clay Figures, Oaxaca

Here is an amazing assortment from my personal collection of Josefina Aguilar clay figures for sale. Josefina is from Ocotlan, Oaxaca, and creates clay sculptures in herr home pottery studio on the road leading into town. She is famed for her whimsical interpretation of the world, including the life of Frida Kahlo.  I also have a few pieces for sale by her sister Guillermina, equally talented who lives right next door. What’s amazing is that I got all these back to the U.S. intact, whole, with no cracks or broken pieces!

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1. Calavera Lady with Purple Boa. $165. Signed Josefina Aguilar.  She stands almost 12″ high.  Blue umbrella is attached.  The boa is a series of purple glittery petals, and the detail work is extraordinary. In perfect collectible condition. Price does not include shipping or insurance.  It includes excellent packing.

 

 

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2.  To the right, Foxy Lady of the Night with Glitter Dress and Red Hair.  $95. Signed Josefina Aguilar. She is wearing a fox boa — indeed you can see the fox head and tail!  Her fingernails are painted bright red to match her hair.  The glitter is shimmering purple, and she sports a yellow flower in her hair.  Price does not include shipping or insurance.  It does include excellent packing.

 

Aguilar_42313_Frida-53.  Serene Woman with Flowers and Bowl on Her Head. $95.  Signed G.A.A. (Guillermina Aguilar). Stands almost 13″ high.   Stunning sculptural figure in natural clay, unpainted, holding a water bowl on her head.  The bowl is filagreed and is balanced and held on the head by two metal prongs that protrude from the clay braid.  The flowers and stars that decorate her body are also solidly held by metal rods that are baked into the clay. Price does not include shipping or insurance.  It does include packing.

Aguilar_42313_Frida-6 4.  Day of the Dead Calavera with Flowers and Bowl, $50.  Signed G.A.A. (Guillermina Aguilar) 9-1/2″ tall in natural clay.  That bowl rests securely on her head. She is a wonderful representation of the lightheartedness by which Oaxacans celebrate this October holiday — with marigold flowers, lots of good food and fond memories of their departed loved ones.  Price includes packing.  Does not include shipping or insurance.

 

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5.  Frida Kahlo with Three Monkeys.  $60. Josefina Aguilar.  I loved the sculptural quality of this piece which is why I bought it at Josefina’s studio before she painted and signed it.  Any collector would recognize it as pure Josefina just by the sculpting of the nose!  You can see how she attaches the pieces of the leaves and monkeys to the body with slip clay because this is a different color from the clay body.  Price includes packing. It does not include shipping or insurance.

Please send me an email to let me know you want a piece BEFORE you make a PayPal payment.  Include your shipping address and let me know if you want insurance.  I will confirm it is still available and send you an invoice based on your location and desire for insurance.  Thank you.

Authenticating Oaxaca Pottery — A Dolores Porras Clay Sculpture

I received a question from a reader this week along with a photograph of a vintage Oaxaca ceramic figure for sale by a Southern California gallery, asking “Is it real?”  The California dealer is selling a Dolores Porras pottery figure measuring 28″ high x 14″ wide, and the price is $500.  Of course, the reader wanted to know if it was worth it!

She received a photo of the front of the figure along with this description from the dealer:

“Along with her family, Dolores Porras has been creating pottery for over 60 years. She lives in the village of Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico. She worked with renowned Mexican potter, Teodora Blanco.   In the early 1980s, she began exploring more colors beyond the traditional green that the area is known for. She developed a translucent white glaze that makes her pieces almost iridescent. She uses it as a background color behind details that are painted in rusts, cobalt blues and yellows.

She develops each piece, adding the raised elements such as flowers and decorates them with her distinctive glazes. Her production has been curtailed by the recent death of her husband, as well as her advancing age.”

I was skeptical since I know that Dolores died in November 2010, almost two years ago, something that the dealer was not aware of although there is plenty of information available on the Internet through good research.  I was not certain that Dolores worked with Teodora Blanco as the dealer suggested.  Folk art families tend not to cross-pollinate (so to speak).  In fact, in looking at the clay dress patterning, I thought the piece looked more like the style of Teodora Blanco or one of her children.  Although, I also know that once a new design is introduced in a village it can spread quickly and all the artisans begin using it. This is true for weaving, clay and carved and painted wood figures.

There was also no photo of the signature.  I have several Dolores’ pieces that I was fortunate to acquire in the last few years before she passed.  Her signature is very primitive.  I recommended that the reader ask the dealer to send her a photo of the signature, too.  For $500, the reader deserved to see the signature!

Here is the signature we received, and indeed, it looks like how Dolores signed her pots.  I am not an expert in Dolores Porras pottery by any means.  The best expert is Michael Peed, a ceramic artist and teacher, who made a documentary film about Dolores.  It is featured on this blog and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you order a copy.  The proceeds go to Dolores’ surviving children.

My suggestion to the reader was to ask the dealer whether there was any negotiating room and to include the packing and shipping in the price of the piece, which IS a wonderful example of Dolores’ work.  It’s likely it was a piece done at the height of her creativity, since her late-life pieces are much simpler and more primitive.

How would you go about authenticating a piece like this?  Do you think it’s worth $500 USD?

 

 

 

 

Jose Garcia Antonino, Oaxaca Folk Art Sculptor

For many years now, I have made it a practice to regularly visit the sculpture and pottery studio-workshop-home of Jose Garcia Antonio.  We call him “Don Jose,” an honorific that testifies to his folk art talent working with clay.  Last week, three of us hired a taxi for an all-day excursion into the Ocotlan valley.  Roberta had commissioned a sculpture for her Teotitlan del Valle rooftop garden and we set out to retrieve it.

Don Jose is blind from cataracts, yet his hands feel the wet clay and create primitive works of beauty that are in museum and private collections.  His wife Teresa Mendoza Sanchez is his muse and helpmate.  It is her image that is reflected in his work.  Almost all of his robust depictions of women have her features and signature beauty mark.

His work is recognized in the Grandes Maestros de Arte Popular de Oaxaca Art (Great Masters of Oaxaca Folk Art), a book produced by Banamex Foundation and supported by the Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation. (I was at the presentation but missed getting a book because I was too busy talking! Now, I can’t seem to find one anywhere.)

He proudly showed us his copy of the book signed by all the dignitaries who were there: Philanthropist Alfredo Harp Helu, Dra. Isabel Grañen Purrua, Governor Gabino Cue, and other notables.  I saw him from a distance accept this treasure, an official recognition of his life’s work.  His children have also been acknowledged for their creativity in Arden Rothstein’s book about the new generation of talent coming out of the villages.

 

Jose and Teresa’s home is tucked away beyond the church in San Antonino Castillo Velasco behind a tall gate.  You would never know the treasure trove that awaits you by looking from the street.

   

To get there, you turn right on Castillo Velasco at the sign that directs you into the pueblo from the Ocotlan road.  Then you go straight until you get to the street before the church and turn right.  (If you go right up to the church, the only way you can go is left, so pay attention.)  Turn left at the next street, Calle Libertad, and continue for a few blocks until you see the clay cow and pig on the roof.   Tel. (951) 539-6473.

The next generation: Jose and Maria’s daughter is an excellent sculptor as well. And, a footnote: Because I’m now able to live here many more months out of the year, I went ahead and acquired the pretty clay woman with the braids and bowl on her head, hanging on to her skirts, above left.  As with most primitive folk art, these pieces are delightful, whimsical, and reflective of the cultural art traditions.  They are also very heavy.  Shipping and crating would be a bloody fortune!