Artisans of Oaxaca

by Stephanie Hannington-Suen

One of the many highlights of our trip to Mexico was visiting some of the small villages that surround Oaxaca City. Most of the villages specialise in a particular craft such as textile weaving or pottery and locals can be found selling their wares from homes, studios and stores throughout the towns. We were lucky enough to visit some incredibly talented artisans who create handmade ceramics. 

First up, we visited the wonderful home and studio of Francisco in Santa Maria Atzompa, just outside of Oaxaca. His house sits at the top of a bumpy road and we were greeted by him and his family. The studio is filled with handmade ceramics out on the shelves and floor drying before being fired. There are large windows overlooking the rest of the village. 

Francisco gave us a tour of his studio, offering us a CBD Mezcal to sip while showing us his process. Each piece is built by hand and also on the wheel using locally sourced black clay and then fired in one of his three kilns which he personally built in his garden. Due to the handmade nature of the ceramics, each piece is unique and a form of experimentation. The longer the ceramics remains in the fire, the more durable it becomes and the darker the colour and texture. His work ranges from cream to orange to black. We first came across his work while visiting Criollo, the sister restaurant to Pujol in Mexico City and his ceramics can be found in many of Oaxaca’s best restaurants.

Whilst on our way back from Hierve el Agua, we stopped off at the small Zapotec village of San Marcos Tlapazola which is home to Las Mujeres del Barro Rojo, the women of the Red Clay. Alverta welcomed us into the courtyard of the shared complex of homes and studios where the women live and work and kindly offered to show us her process.

Each piece starts of as a ball of local red clay shaped into a cone. She then uses her tools which consists of a corn husk for lifting the clay, leather for smoothing and shaping on a pottery wheel which is made from an old basketball, which she spins by hand on top of a piece of stone. Once built, the piece is then taken outside to dry in the heat of the midday sun before being fired in their new kiln which sits in the centre of the courtyard.

It was an honour to be able to visit the homes and studios of these artisans and we came away thinking how rich in tradition and history each of their pieces were and how closely they worked with their local resources in creating these beautiful objects.

We’re fortunate to be able to share a very limited number of pieces that were created by these two artisans which can be found on our online store here.