The Pottery Tradition of San Juan de Oriente
Beginning with a tradition that may go back more than 1,500 years, pottery making in San Juan de Oriente is today an emerging local art form that is becoming increasingly recognized by the outside world while remaining rooted in its ancient ways. San Juan has long been known as a site for the manufacture of utilitarian and ceremonial pottery. More recently, this village has rediscovered its ancient cultural tradition and both resurrected this craft and expanded it to add more modern elements.
The production of a single piece involves numerous steps and may require several weeks to complete. The people of San Juan produce several well-recognized styles of pottery, including utilitarian and traditional styles. These forms have come to define the pottery from this part of the world. The pre-Columbian styles attempt to reproduce ancient artifacts that precede the traditional pieces. As a result of the diverse talents of so many artists working in the same small village, continued experimentation, and the introduction of new designs and ideas have worked their way into this Village of Pottery.
The geometric and contemporary pottery styles reflect more modern designs and are expanding and building upon this tradition. Even within the time of our own experience working with the artists of San Juan de Oriente, we witnessed the introduction of new pigments, particularly more intense hues of pink and light blue, as introduced by Duilio Jimenez, and more modern shapes, designs and themes.
It is our hope that we can provide a better understanding of this unique cultural tradition and the people who produce it. We aim to help these talented artists by sharing their works with a broader audience and encourage them to continue their artistic pursuits and benefit their lives. We want to not only promote and share the works of the artists of San Juan de Oriente, but also to support and benefit these artists and their families. Our first public art exhibition held in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin raised $1,000 which was donated to the children’s library in San Juan de Oriente.
As a follow-up to this effort, a portion of all pottery sales will go to provide scholarships to young artists to attend the local pottery school operated by Valentine Lopez. Other donations have consisted of full sets of artist brushes given to several of the artists and coloring books and crayons for their children. Over the past few years we also have witnessed great improvements to the artist’s stores and even their homes. We hope that through our purchase of literally hundreds of pieces of pottery that we have provided the income that has allowed these people to undertake these projects in order to improve their own lives.
The vast majority of pottery produced in San Juan de Oriente is for decorative purposes. These ceramics are fired at relatively low temperatures and the pottery is not glazed inside, so it will not hold water and should not be used for food.
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