Situated along the Pacific Ocean, 280 miles away from Mexico City, Oaxaca is home to the famous Monte Albán pyramids and 16 indigenous communities. Artists and designers work with indigenous artisan groups there, using locally available materials to create designs that are inspired by both tradition and innovation.
A rich culture of pot making has existed in Oaxaca for hundreds of years. In more than seventy pottery villages, the techniques of shaping (hand spinning without a potter’s wheel), firing, and glazing have been passed down from mother to daughter. These techniques were refined through generations to improve the appearance and functionality of the final products.
Barro Negro (black clay) and barro rojo (red clay) are two of the most famous pottery styles from this region.
From extracting and purifying the clay, to firing the dried and polished pieces in underground pits, a piece of black clay vessel typically takes two months to complete. Once finished, the product shows an irregular, metallic black sheen.
Red clay is traditionally used for cooking or food storage in Mexican villages. Depending on the usage and structure of each vessel, the thickness of the clay varies.
Since the end of the last century,
mass-produced plastic, tin, and aluminum products
gradually occupied the markets in Mexican towns and cities,
causing the handmade pottery tradition to wane.
Oaxacan potters are still making pots,
but there is certainly an urge to evolve and bring
this traditional craft into the future.
Words: MINZUU Photos: Paris Barrera, Eric Mindling