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Red Clay Pottery / Barro Rojo

Oaxaca is a state in Mexico with broad, diverse wonders, including the production of pottery. Here you can find over 300 pottery workshops.

Red clay pottery comes from San Marcos Tlapazola (in the municipality of Tlacolula, Oaxaca), a small Zapotec community. This pottery is know for the diversity in the intensity of red color.

Traditionally, the pottery was not sold, it was exchanged for foods or goods. Recently, more of the red pottery sold in the city of Oaxaca and outside of Oaxaca.

Women are the principal artisans, providing a unique flair to each piece they create.

Red clay is obtained from the mountains, but special permits are required. Upon acquiring permission, the women walk in the sun to the mountains to collect the red clay. Two types of clay are collected, one type to create clay pieces, and the other to provide the red color.

To begin the process the women allow the earth to dry in the sun for one or two days. Then they add water to the clay and mix well by hand, then they strain it. They allow it to “set” for one day or more, depending on the intensity of the sun.

Next, they extend some sand over the clay and allow it to sit overnight. The following day, the women begin to give it form, using a variety of tools. A very important element is the patience the women have to work with the clay mixture to obtain the “right” consistency.

They create a diversity of pieces, cups, bowls, jars, comales, and other pieces. Once they have achieved the desired form, they “paint” the pieces with the red clay, using a corn cob (olote).

The final phase is the drying process. The pieces are initially set to dry in the shade, then in the sun, for one day or more.

Finally, the pottery is then ready to be placed in the oven. This whole process can take several days, up to a week.

To give the piece luster, the piece is “rubbed” three times.

Some of the women have traveled to other parts of the world to display their pottery pieces, including museums and fairs in the United States and Europe. Also, the women display their pieces in an expo/fair/festival that is held every year, usually spring or summer.

Author: All Goods Mexico