A life-changing experience for two folk artists

By Susan Page

The father and son Mexican folk potters Ángel Ortiz Gabriel and Ángel Ortiz Arana created a sensation at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, last summer. They were one of the top sellers out of 150 remarkable artists who come together from all over the world once a year for this international gathering of folk artists. The curator of the International Folk Art Museum selected only two pieces out of the entire show for purchase by the museum. One of them was a stunning bean pot by Ángel Ortiz, a humble traditional form, but exquisitely decorated.

Galería Atotonilco’s Open House
Featuring pottery by the Ángel Ortiz family
Sat & Sun, Nov 24 & 25, noon-5pm
Directions in our ad in this issue

A large selection of Ortiz work will be available at Galería Atotonilco’s open house this weekend. The gallery also displays a wide variety of folk art and country antiques from all over Mexico.

But the Ortiz pottery in Santa Fe not only created a sensation among the buyers there — the market proved to be a genuinely life-changing experience for the potters themselves. They took home three times what they have ever made in one year when they sell their pottery only in Mexico.

What follows are excerpts from a moving interview the market conducted with the two Ángel Ortizes, father and son.

Directions to the gallery are in the gallery’s ad in this issue of Atención. Except for this open house, to which all are invited, Galería Atotonilco is open by appointment, 044-415-153-5365.

Jose Ángel Ortiz Arana

Age 30 – Father of three

Award-winning ceramic artist from Jalisco, Mexico.

“Before the Folk Art Market, I was sad about my situation. I could not continue with my ceramic work but had to take a different job to support my family.

Now, since the market, my feeling of self-worth and confidence has risen. I feel happy. And I can enjoy doing my ceramic work that I love because I know I can earn a living from it.

Before, I was skeptical that anyone outside of Mexico would appreciate our work. Seeing people from all over the world eagerly buy our work amazed me.

Now I feel a great responsibility that this culture will not be lost. Our experience at the Folk Art Market will help us keep our craft alive, something we were very worried about. Our success makes our work much more attractive to the younger generation. It’s important for them to see this success so they will more eagerly follow in our footsteps.

I feel so happy that I can offer my children a better quality of life. They have better nutrition, and they are learning English. It has shown us how important knowing English is for reaching a wider market for our work. And we have been able to build a proper kitchen and add a room to our home.

We know that it is rare to have an opportunity like this. But our success  has justified all of our sacrifices and made us happy that we did not give up. I know that I could have lived my whole life without this kind of success. I am truly amazed and grateful.”

Ángel Ortiz Gabriel

Age 65

Has been working in traditional ceramics in Jalisco, Mexico for 50-plus years and

has pioneered the revival of old traditions and created innovations within the traditional style.

“Since the Folk Art Market, I have been able to resolve physical problems. My wife has had a hip replacement; I have had a knee replacement; and I had my gall bladder removed, so that I feel 100 percent better. We do have basic health insurance from the government, but we still had to pay hospitalization and extra payments that were not covered. Without our success at the Folk Art Market, we could not have had these operations.”

Both Father and Son

“The Folk Art Market has had a big impact on our emotions. We feel more joyous and happier all the time. We don’t have to be anxious every day that someone will come into our showroom and buy something. We have a greater feeling of self-worth, that people admire and actually buy our work. Our hearts are full. Now we can live with more tranquility in our lives, without anxiety. And we can enjoy doing our work. Our work is a great pleasure for us, and this success lets us keep doing this work that we love. It gives us motivation to create even better work, and to encourage our children to carry on this ancient art.”


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