Open house features rare ceramic works

By Susan Page

The story of award-winning ceramic artist Jerónimo Ramos Flores is remarkable, but true. His work has won first place in both of the important National Ceramic Competitions for each of the past several years. Yet his work is little known outside of his own community, and Galería Atotonilco is the only gallery in the world that carries his work.

Galería Atotonilco open house
Featuring award-winning ceramist
Jerónimo Ramos Flores
Sat & Sun, Sep 29 & 30, 12-5pm
Directions in our ad in this issue

“I met Jerónimo eight years ago on one of my frequent trips to Tonalá, Jalisco, long a center of traditional Mexican folk ceramics,” said gallery owner Mayer Shacter, himself a former ceramic artist. “I was stunned by the exquisite quality of his craftsmanship and his artistic imagination. “‘Why is this man not better known?’ I wanted to know.”

The answer is that he is not interested in marketing his work. He lives humbly, and earns a simple living working for other artists in the community. He creates a few pieces of his own, very original work, when time allows and enters his work in competitions, but he has no interest in selling it. Shacter buys pieces whenever he can and has accumulated a small collection of the work over several years. Except for this small collection, and a few pieces on display at the Central Jalisence Artesanía in Guadalajara, there is rarely work available for the public to buy.

Another surprising fact is that Jerónimo works in two different styles, creating both burnished pots, and pots glazed in the petatillo style. When he was a teenager, he apprenticed with Pedro Chavez, who is considered the father of the petatillo style, in which the negative spaces in the surface design are filled in with a tiny cross-hatch pattern that resembles woven straw petate mats. Although the Bernabé family is best known for this style of work, Jerónimo has perfected it, and consistently wins competitions in this category. He also wins prizes with his unglazed, burnished ware, decorated in the narrative style for which Tonalá is well known.

In July of this year, the city of Tonalá unveiled a mural created by Jerónimo for the City Hall, depicting the historic Tastoanes battle during the Spanish conquest, a battle re-enacted every year in Tonalá with the creation of elaborate masks and a festival featuring ritual dancing. Also in July, Jerónimo won a cash prize of 200,000 pesos (about US$15,000), winning first place in the annual National Competition for glazed ceramics. And, in the National Ceramic Competition in nearby Tlaquepaque, he also received first place, including a cash prize of 125,000 pesos.

Clearly, his work is incredibly beautiful and masterfully crafted. Yet it is rarely seen, purchased, or collected outside of Tonalå.

You may view what may be the largest collection of Jerónimo’s work anywhere at Galería Atotonilco’s open house, Saturday and Sunday, September 29 and 30 from noon to 5pm each day. The gallery displays a wide variety of folk art from all over Mexico, country antique furniture, decorative blown glass, historic photographs, and vintage textiles. At this open house, the gallery will unveil a new “international annex” displaying folk art and craft from other countries such as Africa and New Guinea. Except for this open house, the gallery is open only by appointment by calling 185-2225.

Directions to the gallery, located five miles north of town, can be found in the gallery’s ad in this paper, on the gallery website (www.folkartsanmiguel), or by phoning the gallery.

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