Tag Archives: San Antonino Castillo Velasco

Oaxaca Folk Art: Jose Garcia Antonio Ceramic Figures

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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Shopping in San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca

My sister and I set out for San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca, to visit the potter Don Jose Garcia Antonino who makes life-size human figures sculpted from local red clay called barro rojo.  We decided to go before everyone arrived for the wedding so that we could focus on the shopping day at hand.  Barbara has been wanting to get one of Don Jose’s sculptures for years.  She was set on getting one she could see eye-to-eye with.  Yes, they are that big!

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Jose Garcia Antonio‘s daughter dusts off the figure Barbara selected while his granddaughter watches us.  He is featured in the recently published book, Grand Masters of Oaxaca.  Calle Libertad No. 24, San Antonino Castillo Velasco. Telephone (951) 539-6473.  email Jose Garcia’s son at josemiguelgarcia2010@gmail.com

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San Antonino is mostly known for it’s intricate multi-colored embroidery with designs of flowers and birds that embellish blouses and dresses.  The quality and amount of the embroidery plus the finish work determine the price of a garment that can range from 200 pesos to 6,000 pesos (that’s about $17 USD to $525 USD).  The white on white version is known as the Oaxaca Wedding Dress.

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Here at Artesanias Viki on Calle Libertad No. 1, (telephone 571-0092) sister Barbara models a manta (natural cotton) blusa with hot pink embroidery on the bodice.  Dueña Virginia Sanchez de Cornelio and her daughters, also included in the Grand Masters of Oaxaca folk art book, have a stash of stunning blouses and dresses in all types of colors, sizes, intricacy of embroidery, and prices.   Note the pansies and the little figures that make up the smocking on the bodice of the white dress.  These can take six to nine months to embroider, we are told.

We probably spent an hour or more at the pottery studio and then a good hour-and-a-half with Señora Viki trying on clothes.  Good thing we did this trip sola — just the two of us.  After a lunch on the patio at Azucenas Zapoteca at the San Martin Tilcajete crossroads, we went to Mailboxes Etc. in Oaxaca city to pack and ship the girl, which Barbara nicknamed Viki!

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San Antonino is just before you get to the town of Ocotlan de Morales, about 40 minutes beyond Oaxaca on the way to Puerto Angel.  There’s a sign that directs you to turn right off the highway.  It is beyond San Martin Tilcajete, the alebrijes village and Santo Tomas Jalieza, the backstrap loom weaving village.  You can make a day of it along this route.   Hire a taxi for 120-150 pesos per hour or take a collectivo for 10 pesos per person each way.

Our mode of transportation was trusty Teotitlan del Valle Sitio Zapoteco taxi driver Abraham.  Running errands later in the day, we hopped on a moto-taxi which we call a tuk-tuk.  Here’s a bit of pueblo scenery with Barbara profiled in the rear-view mirror!

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Fortunately, I downloaded these into my computer before I lost my camera, so I’m able to share them with you.  Hope you enjoy.