Tag Archives: clay

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!


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.




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.



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!


Potter of Santa Maria Atzompa: Irma Claudia Garcia Blanco

The daughter of Teodora Blanco squats on her knees at the small potter’s wheel as if in prayer at an altar holding an offering.  Her legs are tucked neatly under her.  She is dressed in embroidered white cotton, white on white.  Behind her is a gray stucco wall.  She is framed in the expanse of memory.

The earth gives forth blessings: tamales to eat, atolé to drink, clay for the vessels that hold them.  A distant village, San Lorenzo Cacaotepec, is ancient source.  Then, clay was hauled by burro.  Now, husband Francisco drives the truck. The work is always heavy: dig the hard substance from pits deep in the earth.

The yield is terra-cotta red or deep gray like rain clouds or taupe like Isthmus sand.  The recipe is historic: Mix together clay and water. Use a long pine paddle hewn from a mountain log. Assure the consistency is pliable, exact.  Scoop it into smaller portions from which to create shape, form, structure.

Irma Claudia Garcia Blanco holds a portion of clay the color of steel. It is malleable and she presses her finger deep into its center.



She holds it like an infant, tender yet firm.  She caresses the clay body and a figure emerges.

The daughter of Teodora Blanco sets the cone figure aside and begins to roll a clay cigarette to shape one arm, then the other.

Her fingers are nimble.  Perhaps she will add an animal or anthropomorphic decoration:  bird, eagle, snake, lightning.  A chicken playing a fiddle!  A dancing cow!

 In the corner of the courtyard Tia guards the cooking pot filled with softening corn husks that will embrace fiesta tamales.

The daughter of Teodora Blanco has six daughters and one son. She remembers this as she works:  After childbirth the midwife covers her with a cloak of orange leaves, fragrant and soft, so her milk will come in sweeter.

Her husband takes the birthing water and discards it far from the house.  This is his role.  On the third day, her first sip will be clear chicken broth.  For 40 days, she will be confined to bed with the infant, drinking only unsweetened atolé to escape death.  This is mystical, in the old traditions, says Irma Claudia, as she works the clay that becomes a woman holding two chickens.

Lulu, the youngest daughter still at home, stands to the side.  She is quick with math and checks the transactions.

Years before a Rockefeller came here and anointed Teodora Blanco with fame.  Centuries before, her antecedents fashioned pots, fired in deep pits with wood ignited by dung.  This was their tribute to Monte Alban rulers who lived closer to god, high above Atzompa.  The vessels and figures offerings to embellish tables and tombs.

Now, the function is obscure.  We call this sculpture and decorate our homes, offices, gardens. The potter, daughter of generations, sits before her wheel.  It is metal, not clay.  The currency is pesos, not tribute.  The kiln is concrete, not adobe.  The fuel is still wood.






Irma Claudia signs her name for tourists, not royalty.  The beauty endures.


Irma Claudia Garcia Blanco Artesanias, Av. Juårez, #302, Santa Marîa Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico. (951) 558-9286.

Upcoming workshops:  Photography/Collage/Painting, Portrait Photography, Women’s Creative Writing + Yoga Retreat.

As mentioned in The Barra de Navidad Daily.

Clay Times Magazine Features Dolores Porras Video Review

Oaxaca is known for folk art and especially pottery.  Potter Dolores Porras was one of those exceptional self-taught people who took their traditions, skill and creativity to the next level.  The Atzompa pueblo, where she lived and worked, provided the cooking vessels and ornamental pottery for Monte Alban, one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica.

The autumn issue of Clay Times magazine reviewed the video about Dolores and her work.  Dolores Porras died in early November 2010.  She is missed by many.  When I visited her studio in February 2010 she was suffering from Parkinson’s and there were only a few pieces left on the shelves of her home gallery.  This video, created by potter Michael Peed, captures Dolores in the fullness of her creative expression. Today, in the Atzompa pueblo, about 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca city, there are many who produce beautiful pottery.  Some are adaptations of the style Dolores Porras developed, including the wonderful work of Teodora Blanco.