Ángel Ortiz Gabriel & Ángel Ortiz Arana
The potter, Ángel Ortiz Gabriel, a tenacious man of few words, has been working with clay since he was 11 years old. His studio-house-workshop located in Tonalá, Jalisco, Mexico, is a family affair. It isn't just a livelihood, it is a lifestyle passed on through generations. His vocation was learned from and taught by his grandparents Cruz Gabriel and María Felix Bautista. Ángel also studied with the famous Jorge Wilmot, an internationally renowned craftsman who has been honored with various accolades. Ángel himself has also won many awards over the years on both the state and national levels in working his craft. Ángel Ortiz Gabriel has dabbled in various art forms but barro bruñido (burnished pottery) is his forte.
His son and best student, Ángel Ortiz Arana, follows in his father's footsteps. Many children decide not to follow a life dedicated to the fundamental elements of earth, water, air and fire. Young Ángel has taken his birthright to heart. Both artists will tell you that their work is an extension of who they are. Images of farmers harvesting corn or tending animals, seasonal celebrations, and fiestas, women kneading tortillas, observations of life and death are among the subjects depicted on their burnished pottery.
The process used by the Ortiz family consists of first selecting a quality grade clay. Good veins of white and black clay can be found in the town of Rosario, a few miles outside of Tonalá. The clay needs to be mixed in proper proportions to make it both strong and flexible so it can resist humidity and heat. The art piece is formed by hand and placed in the shade to dry until it becomes hard. Slight irregularities are polished out with a smooth stone. Whitewash, similar to varnish, is brushed over the surface. Over this, earth tone paints are used to decorate the piece, designs coming from their imaginations and memories. The final step in the process is the firing at 600 degrees C. for 2 1/2 hour.
Their folk art, from utilitarian to magnificent, reveals a background that stretches from before the Spanish conquest to the present day. It is folk art that the world craves, and a tradition that some modern artisans are struggling to maintain.
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