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A Folk Potter’s Remarkable Journey

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.”

Ángel’s grandparents were traditional potters, so Ángel began working with them, learning his craft the same way most folk artists do, with 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 well-crafted functional work to creating decorative works of art.

Today, working in Tonala, Jalisco, he has been making pots for more than 50 years and is one of the most skilled potters working anywhere in México. He has revived traditions from the 1930s 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 Sr began working in the 1960s, 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 existence: 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 Ángel Jr: “I paint the scenes I learned from my father, but I have never lived the life that I paint.”

Since the gallery has been collecting Ángel Ortiz pottery for fifteen years, Galería Atotonilco has possibly the finest selection of their work anywhere, even in their own studio, where, at any given time, they may have very few pieces on hand.

Galeria Atotonilco’s 6,000 square feet of exhibition space features a wide variety of fine folk art from all over México and an excellent selection of Mexican country antiques. The owners just returned from a buying trip, so the gallery is filled with dazzling new items from villages in Guerrero and Puebla.

Directions to the gallery are on our website and on Google Maps. We are just twelve minutes north of town near the hot springs, in a gorgeous country setting and an architecturally interesting building about which much has been published. Except for this open-house on Saturday and Sunday, September 15–16, noon–5pm, Galería Atotonilco is open by appointment, 044 415 153 5365.


Art Opening

Galería Atotonilco presents

Open House

Featuring Ángel Ortiz Pottery

Sat and Sun, Sep 15–16, Noon–5pm

Directions on our website or call

044 415 153 5365


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