Huáncito’s Historic “Towers of Pots”
By Susan Page
Galería Atotonilco is pleased to feature the distinctive “Towers of Pots” from Huáncito, Michoacán, at its open house, November 15 and 16, noon to 5pm each day. Artists in the village of Huáncito, Michoacán, have been creating this work since the 1500s and continue to carry on the tradition today. To own a Huáncito pot is to own a piece of Mexican history.
Galería Atotonilco Open House Sat and Sun, Nov 15 and 16, noon-5pm
Featuring Towers of Pots from
Direction to the Gallery
in our ad in this issue
From 1538 until his death in 1565, the Spanish priest Vasco de Quiroga, affectionately known as Tato Vasco and greatly beloved by his flock, was the bishop of Michoacán. He brought peace and order to an area that had been ravaged by Spanish conquerors, created hospitals and schools, and encouraged each village to develop the particular craft for which they already had a propensity. Using Thomas More’s
Utopia as a model, he also taught the native peoples the fundamentals of self-government. Each person worked six hours a day and contributed on an equal basis to the common welfare.
In Huáncito, he invited the natives to create water jugs since the scarcity of water in that area required something that was ideal for transporting and storing water. The towers of jugs we enjoy as decorative pieces today were developed to permit a greater amount of water to be stored in a small area within each home.
Keeping alive this 400-year-old tradition, artists like the Especio family still create water jugs in Huáncito. They still create the stunning towers of pots, and they have turned their water pitchers into appealing animal shapes. They still gather their clay locally, go through an elaborate process of preparing the clay, and then mold the pots. After the pots are dry, the artists apply a coat of charanda, a pigment made of brown soil. Next, they burnish the pot with a silken cloth to prepare it for meticulously painted surface decoration. Using fine brushes made of cat hair and paints, they prepare from clay and water, the artists paint flowers, hummingbirds, deer, fish, rabbits, and other themes from nature, and then, finally, they fire the work.
The resulting towers of pots are a dramatic sight in any setting, and the jugs have become decorative animal-shaped pitchers.
The celebrated cut-paper artist Margarita Fick has become ill and is no longer working. Galeria Atotonilco has all of her remaining work, and only six pieces remain. They are unique, eye-dazzling works of art, distinctively Mexican.
What distinguishes Galería Atotonilco is its unique blend of high-quality folk art together with country antiques, vintage and historic photographs, and a fine collection of historic textiles, including post-classic Saltillo serapes. With over 5,000 square feet of exhibition space, the gallery bears the distinctive imprint of its owner, Mayer Shacter, whose background as a celebrated ceramic artist and an antique dealer is evident everywhere.
The setting of the gallery, five miles north of town on eight lush acres landscaped by local designer Tim Wachter, in a building designed by award-winning architect Cathi House, also make the gallery a destination. The gallery and adjacent home have been featured in several books and magazines. The editor of the fine magazine Artes inMexico, Alberto Ruy Sanchez, recently called Galeria Atotonilco, in an article in El Universal newspaper, “Without doubt, the finest exhibition and sale of Mexican popular arts in the country.”
Directions to the gallery, just five miles north of town, are in our ad in this issue of Atención.