Eleuterio Ortega López, Santa Cruz de las Huertas Tonalá, Jalisco

Eleuterio Ortega López, Santa Cruz de las Huertas Tonalá, Jalisco

The Ortega family has been working in betus clay for generations. The betus clay is known as Ceramica Fantastica because of the use of bright colors in its creation.  But its name comes from the oil bath it receives from a resin extracted from the pine tree (betus) before being fired.

Santa Cruz de las Huertas, a suburb of Tonalá, Jalisco, is known as the main producer of betus clay articles. In their design you will find roosters, coyotes, owls, and other figures including trees of life, all made with a sense of fun and bright colors. Santa Cruz de las Huertas is the only town that makes barro betus, one of the seven traditional ceramic techniques for which it is known.

Eleuterio Ortega López, the fourth generation of his family to work with barro betus, learned his trade from his father, Eleuterio Ortega Hernández, and his grandmother, Natividad Hernández. His grandparents worked in the fields during the planting and harvesting seasons and in their free time they dedicated themselves to developing their art. Eleuterio's grandmother designed pieces in the shapes of roosters, animals, candelabras, animal and fruit chests, covered with nahuales (a creature that has the power to magically turn into an animal, commonly donkey, turkey and dogs, and other more powerful animals) bodies and surrealistic figures. The origin of betus clay descends from colonial times and is surrounded by myths. The most popular pieces of art are the nahual figures painted in bright colors and are reputed to come from a magical world.

The process begins with "tortillando" and kneading the clay into unique shapes. The oven is prepared and the pieces created several days before are baked. Before the clay is baked it is black in color. The pieces must be dried in the open air before being baked or they will explode. They are fired at a very low temperature compared to other types of pottery. Each figure is rubbed with birch oil just before firing, which gives them a lacquered appearance once finished. The kilns are simple brick holes covered with old tiles.

Independencia # 46-A

Santa Cruz de las Huertas Tonalá, Jalisco

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Facebook: Eleuterio Ortega Lopez