José Luis Cortéz Hernández
José Luis Cortéz Hernández was presented with the “Ángel Carranza Award" at the 2013 Premio Nacional de la Ceramica in Tlaquepaque by Presidente Enrique Peña Nieto. Along with the award, José was awarded $50,000 pesos. This award is named for Ángel Carranza Cortés, first recipient of the award, and has been awarded a total of 17 times, 13 of which have been to potters from either Tonalá or Tlaquepaque. It is given for excellence in technique, materials, design and decoration.
The governor of Jalisco emphasized that Jalisco is known for the quality and creativity of its art and should be considered as a living history of the country and must be supported by the government to aid artisans in continuing their work and find sales outlets for them.
Presidente Peña Nieto said that his visit to Tlaquepaque was a promise he made in his campaign to support Mexico’s artisans. Mexico is wealthy in its handicrafts and the artists who create with their hands, minds and hearts project peace and tranquility to the rest of the world.
José has been working with clay half of his life. Married to Irma, he has studied with the great Salvador Vázquez Carmona and has risen to become a true master of bruñido (burnished) pottery. His elegant designs and pottery forms originate from his creative imagination. When I asked him where he got his inspiration, he said, "I just feel the shape as I work with the clay."
Where does he get his clay? Near Tonalá lie deposits of black, white and red clay with varying proportions of silica. He pays a fee to extract great chunks of clay from this area. Once home, the chunks are broken up, ground into a powder and then sifted to removed impurities. Next water is added and the clay begins to "ferment" covered with plastic and set aside for several months.
Smoothed with stones after drying, a slip of pigment is applied to seal the pores of the clay as well as provide a background color. The paints are made by mixing clays and adding earth pigments.
After the slip has dried and the paints are mixed, the decoration (palmeado) is ready to begin. With an ensemble of brushes, some of animal hair, he begins with great skill painting the designs he is so well known for. The final burnishing may take a very long time in that the colors must be fixed well on the pot so they do not fade during the firing.
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