Archive for January, 2018

Oaxacan Diary: Day Four.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 24, 2018 by brunyfire

Sunday 21 January, 2018.

We’re all feeling a little shattered this morning as the local night club was banging out the dance tempo with heart stopping intensity, and given the average ages of our party, it was surprising that some of us didn’t fall off our perches. Despite our tiredness, everyone rallied with the arrival of our tour team, Megan and Diego and we all bundled into a van to take off and check out the black ware – Barra negro.

IMG_0166          (Images above – pieces by Serena Simón Lopez)

Oaxaca is one of few Mexican states which is characterized by the continuance of its ancestral crafts, pottery being one of the most precedent and the one that our group from the ‘Fire and Clay: Ancient Innovations’ group was most interested in. Today, we’re headed for San Bartolo Coyotepec situated south of the city and home of the internationally renowned Barra Negro or polished black pottery.

EF3CACDB-A195-4F1C-9B6F-0AA6D9390349(Images above: details of work by Serena Simón Lopez)

Whilst the origins of this pottery style extends as far back as the Monte Alban period,  and for almost all of its history, the pots were made with a grayish matte finish, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that Barra Negro pottery was born. A potter named Doña Rosa (Rosa Real Mateo de Nieto) devised a way (by accident the story goes) to create a black metallic finish onto her pots by burnishing the ware at leather hard stage and firing it at a lower temperature in a heavily reduced atmosphere. And whilst the function of the ware was compromised, a whole new generation of work evolved that has since sustained the traditional ceramic practices of the area.

This has been aided in no small part by the involvement of Innovando la Tradición/ 1050º. Innovando la tradición is a multidisciplinary network of people working to increase the symbolic, economic and cultural value of Oaxacan pottery through offering a range of services in response to the present needs of the artisans. And
Colectivo 1050 is the result of this collaborative approach – a range of ware that combines traditional techniques, a respect for cultural heritage with contemporary ideas and marketing.

One of the artists amongst those that are working with Innovanda is Serena Simón Lopez, who produces the ‘Domingo Fruit Bowl’ (in collaboration with Diego Mier y Terán).IMG_0480She and her husband greeted us with the usual trademark warmth that we have grown accustomed to from all the artists we have met to date. 1C4C4C3A-AD8F-486D-958C-87F2FC14D9ABWhilst the majority of the work created is made in the traditional manner, that of a kind of pummel and pinch and hand turning, she also coils her larger pieces and……25BA8304-0B80-48C0-9CEE-9A181A75B719………..slip casting is also employed using the natural defloculating qualities of the local clay – nothing is added it seems – just a finely sieved clay and water mixture……B81726FD-B9D1-4034-9DF8-B92D4A843A29……..this is a process dear to Brunyfire’s own heart…….3C7BF3D2-245C-4156-9304-D6B2C39D1733…… produce a range of forms that Serena carves. Her tools are simple and comprise a range of found, made and inherited tools……..2355D0E6-6CB7-4013-A398-AC77012688E3……..but her movements are assured, creative and incredibly deft. The pieces illustrated are slip cast – fettled when leather hard and burnished all over with baby oil and a smooth stone. Once the carving is complete they are left to dry until ready to be packed and fired in the kiln that husband Louis designed.BBC7305C-2271-4EEF-81B1-89F6E8086F66The kiln is based on a traditional updraft kiln as illustrated in Eric Mindling’s book ‘Fire and Clay: The Art of Oaxacan Pottery’. IMG_0481Mindling describes the proces of firing and the outcome of reduction as ‘starving the pots of oxygen and creating dense smoke that that in turn produces the carbon that penetrates the body of the ware turning it black’

Later in the afternoon, and accompanied by Estella, we walk around the town listening to her account of how the people themselves are organising their community to deal with keeping their town clean – organising their garbage, banning plastic bags and recycling. 7D8ED1EE-BC62-43E0-93D0-C5EF4F5F7791An example of traditional adobe style walls alongside recycled metal advertising panels – the traditional and the contemporary. IMG_0177And best of all – a drink of tejate bought street side……..107896B1-FACC-4062-B390-D5DEC8BA2025

……more on this special treat later…….