Manuel Reyes, Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán, Oaxaca

Manuel Reyes, Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán, Oaxaca

Off the beaten path and definitely a must-see, Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán is a small Mixtec pueblo located about an hour-and-a-half north of Oaxaca City, off the Carretera Naciónal toll road to Mexico City.

Ceramic artist, sculptor and painter, Manuel Reyes, lives here with his wife Marisela, also an accomplished artist, and their two children. He was born in Mexico City in 1972 to Oaxacan parents. Reyes began studying art in 1990. He attended the Escuela Naciónal de Artes Plásticas in Xochimilco, Mexico City. He moved to Cuernavaca in 1995, where he was mentored by the likes of Roger Von Gunten, Joy Laville, Francisco Lastra and Juan Soriano. In 2003 Reyes returned to the Mixteca, and has since then re-established his roots.

He uses a gas kiln and fires his work at 900-1,200 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, unusual for the region where most clay work is low fire, cooked in a shallow wood-fire kiln. Manuel gets his red clay from pits in San Jeronimo Silacayoapilla, not far from home. He says the clay from here is the strongest, the best.

The clay is painted with natural mineral pigments that Manuel gets from the local region. Some of his work is primitive. Other pieces are highly polished polychrome with three or four colors. Pre-Hispanic designs on clay come from pottery shards that Manuel finds in the region.

While Reyes obtains his clays from many different areas, most are from four main locales: a riverbed about a kilometer from his home, upstate at Huajuapan de León, the town of Santa María Cuquila, and from Zacatecas, northwest of the nation’s capital. Each compound has different qualities. His Zacatecan clay is strong and has a sandy texture, making it suitable for sculpting his large, almost life-size human figures; more utilitarian pieces such as plates and cups are made with earth from Cuquila; pieces which he intends to burnish are sculpted from clay from Huajuapan de León; and he mixes local soil with the Zacatecan earth to yield a more malleable and easily workable clay.

Santo Domingo Yanhuitlán, Oaxaca

951 562 7008