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A Folk Potter’s Remarkable Journey

Detail of flowers

By Susan Page

Galeria Atotonilco has recently acquired spectacular new works by the famed Tonala ceramic artist, Angel Ortiz, which will be shown at the gallery March 24-25.

When Angel 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.”

Angel’s grandparents were traditional potters, so Angel 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. Angel 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 Tonala, 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 Angel, has learned from his father and is equally skilled and enthusiastic about clay. For several years, father and son have been selected to display their work at the prestigious International Folk Art Market in Santa Fe, NM.

When Angel Sr 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 firewood, feeding chickens, riding burros, plowing fields, or taking a siesta under a cactus. Today, Tonala has expanded so much that there is no more land around the town and potters work full-time at their art. Said Angel Jr, “I paint the scenes I learned from my father, but I have never lived the life that I paint.”

Since gallery owner Mayer Shacter has been collecting Angel Ortiz pottery for twelve years, Galeria Atotonilco has possibly the finest selection of their work anywhere, even than the father and son’s own studio, where at any given time they may have very few pieces on hand. Atotonilco’s collection of their pottery will be on display at a gallery open house on Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25, from noon–5pm both days, along with a great variety of other folk art and antiques from all over Mexico.

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, Galeria Atotonilco is open by appointment, 044 415 153 5365.


Art Opening

Galeria Atotonilco

Featuring Angel Ortiz Pottery

And folk art from six Mexican states

Sat–Sun, Mar 24–25, Noon–5pm

Directions in our ad in this issue

044 415 153 5365



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