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A Life-Changing Experience for Two Folk Artists

By Susan Page

Father and son Mexican folk potters, Angel Ortiz Gabriel and Angel Ortiz Arana, created a sensation at the International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in mid-July. 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. Three years ago 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 traditional vessel, exquisitely decorated.

A Life-Changing Experience for Two Folk Artists
By Susan Page
Sat and Sun, Jul 23 and 24, 12–5pm
Galería Atotonilco
044 415 153 5365

A large selection of Ortiz’s work will be available at Galería Atotonilco’s open house, Saturday and Sunday, July 23 and 24, from 12 to 5pm. The gallery has been collecting Ortiz pottery for ten years and displays the largest collection of it anywhere in Mexico. You will also see a wide variety of folk art and country antiques from all over Mexico in the gallery’s 5,000 square foot exhibition space.

The Ortiz pottery in Santa Fe not only created a sensation among the buyers there, the market also proved to be a genuinely life-changing experience for the potters themselves. After one weekend, they took home much more than what they have ever made in one year selling their pottery only in Mexico.

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

José Ángel Ortiz Arana

Age 35–Father of three

Award-Winning Ceramic Artist from Jalisco, Mexico

Before the 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 the market, 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 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 want to learn English. The market 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 the market. But our success at the market has justified all 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 69

He has been working in traditional ceramics in Jalisco, Mexico, for more than 50 years and has pioneered the revival of old traditions, creating 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 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.

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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