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A Folk Potter’s Remarkable Journey

In booth in Santa Fe

By Susan Page

When Ángel Ortiz was a teenager, he was determined to go to college and asked everyone in his family for financial aid. They all wanted to help, but no one could. One day his mother lovingly put a lump of clay in front of him and said, “This will be your education.” “It was the best thing she could have done,” he said. “I have never regretted taking her advice.”

Galería Atotonilco
Open House
Featuring Ángel Ortiz Pottery
Sat and Sun, Apr 25 and 26, 12-5pm
Directions in our ad in this issue
044 415 153-5365

Ángel’s grandparents were traditional potters, so Ángel began working with them, learning his craft the same way most folk artists do, the skills and traditions being handed down from one generation to the next. Ángel loved the work and was both ambitious and creative. He refined his skills for a time under the legendary potter, Jorge Wilmont, and began moving beyond the concept of the well-crafted functional work to creating decorative works of art.

Today, working in Tonalá, Jalisco, he has been making pots for more than fifty years and is one of the most skilled potters working anywhere in Mexico. He has revived traditions from the thirties that had actually disappeared from his village, such as a varied palette behind the scenes he paints and new subject matter in his narrative works. To his great delight, his own son, also named Ángel, has learned from his father and is equally skilled and enthusiastic about clay.

When Ángel senior began working in the sixties, most potters also owned land and spent half of their time working in the fields, so what they depicted in the paintings on their pots were scenes from their daily lives: farmers gathering fire wood, feeding chickens, riding burros, plowing fields, or taking a siesta under a cactus. Today, Tonalá has expanded so much that there is no more land around the town, and potters work full time at their art. Said Ángel junior: “I paint the scenes I learned from my father, but I have never lived the life that I paint.”

Galería Atotonilco’s 5,000 square feet of exhibition space features a wide variety of fine folk art from all over Mexico and an excellent selection of Mexican country antiques.

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.


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