Pedro Ramos Morales, San Juan Evangelista, Jalisco

Pedro Ramos Morales, San Juan Evangelista, Jalisco

Pedro Ramos Morales has worked for over 50 years with one of Mexico's most prolific folk art mediums - barro (clay). He is also a veterinarian, working on ceramics in his spare time.

One of Pedro's specialties, is a black pottery called technico plumbate. In days gone by, he used to trek into the hills of San Juan Evangelista, Jalisco, collect the clay from the surrounding mountains, take it home, pulverize and then sift it, all by hand. However, this clay does not offer the purity he requires for his work so today he purchases clay in Tonalá, just outside of Guadalajara, the same as many other ceramic artists.

His uncle, the renowned Sixto Ibarra, founder of this clay process, was his mentor and teacher. Sixto is the father of Martin Ibarra, who is another well-known ceramicist from San Juan Evangelista.

All of Pedro's pieces are handmade — he does not use molds — this is unusual and difficult to find in ceramics of this type. The pieces are fired in the age-old method using an adobe and brick kiln with mesquite wood. The wood is very important as it must be able to achieve the correct heat in the kiln and different wood will turn the clay different colors — mesquite is perfect.

Once a piece has been sculpted, it is fired for two hours. His tools are rustic: old pieces of metal, saws, a nail, pencils or pens. If he wishes to achieve the plumbate effect, after firing he will hold the pot over the flames by inserting a metal rod inside the pot. This is a very toxic process because he is so close to the fire. It takes about 15 minutes to achieve the totally black finish.

Pedro's pots and figures come in varied colors — all are natural earth pigments. He is adamant about continuing and passing on his work to his four children. Pottery very much like what Pedro produces has been unearthed in archeological digs near Chapala. It is important to him that this part of his country's history continues to endure. His work is a family affair, with all four children helping to burnish (rub the pot with old pieces of metal to achieve a sheen), forming or simply practicing and fine-tuning their own designs.

Another reason Pedro enjoys his ceramic work is that it occasionally allows him the opportunity to travel. He has shown his work in Portland, Oregon, Long beach, California, and in Kent, Washington. In 1995 he was given the Distinguished Artist award from the state of Jalisco by Instituto de la Artensania.

San Juan Evangelista, Jalisco

(333) 666-4380; (331) 355-7194 cell