José López Aragón
Black Clay Arist
San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca, México
From the age of six, José learned to model his imagination by playing with clay. He would make his own toys while his mother “raised” pitchers, apaxtles, and pichanchas to trade in the local market. A life of using clay turned him into a "Maestro" and now his daughters have followed in his footsteps with José as their teacher. They have learned by seeing the amounts of material used, the burning time in the kiln, and the secret to turning the pieces black. Maestro José enjoys creating new designs and pieces requested by challenging clients. He accepts any adversity or setback that arises in his work, and represents it with this phrase: "Mud as in life itself, if the piece falls or breaks, you pick it up again." For Don José, being an artisan is a gift with which one is born, and he affirms it by saying: “Potter to your pitchers. Each craftsman must work his own, each one with what God has given him permission to do and that is how good things will come out”. The workshop of the López Aragón family is one more facade of San Bartolo Coyotepec, far from the center, without any sign indicating that the tradition is kept alive in there. If you touch the green gate, two young women will open it, and upon entering, Don José will be sitting on rags full of mud spread out on the ground, with a pillow on his chest, scraping a gray pitcher with his large hands, removing the excess and smoothing it. Two dogs will also come out to say hello and the family will tell you how naughty "Churro" is and that he doesn't let his master work until late at night. In the distance, music will be heard announcing a party, and Don José will tell endless stories about the traditions of his people and the ecological advances they have had.