Oaxaca is undoubtedly one of the richest cultural and artistic regions in Mexico.
Its vast artistic heritage is reflected in masterpieces made of gold, silver, copper, clay, stone, wood, bone, and fig tree paper, which today are exhibited in many museums of the world.
Oaxacans live and feel art as an essential part of their daily life.
One of the most popular and collectible artistic creations is the Barro Negro or black pottery.
Distinguished by its color, sheen and unique designs. Oaxaca is one of few Mexican states, which is characterized by the continuance of its ancestral crafts, which are still used in everyday life.
The origins of this pottery style extends as far back as the Monte Alban period and for almost all of this pottery’s history, had been available only in a grayish matte finish. In the 1950s, a potter named Doña Rosa devised a way to create a black metallic like sheen onto the pottery by polishing it before firing.
This pottery is hand made in San Bartolo Coyotepec and a large number of small communities in the surrounding valley, where the clay that gives it its color is found.
As with most artistic expressions, there is a vast commercial, handicraft level, production of Barro Negro but there are also fine art, creations of this pottery style
We are very happy to present to you the impressive Barro Negro pottery created by Omar Fabian, an exceptional artist creating some of the most exquisite pieces of Black Clay in Oaxaca. Click here to view his impressive pots.
In his own words, Omar Fabian explains to us his artistic journey.
I have been around clay all my life since I come from a family dedicated to the production of crafts made out of clay. As a child I was expected to help my parents because this was our livelihood.
I must confess I never liked to work with clay and being a ceramist never even crossed my mind. This is why I went on to college and majored in Graphic Design.
I didn’t count on how powerful the attraction to clay was as a human experience, at least in may case, so seven years ago I started creating small pieces. I studied the properties of clay and how they could work with my ideas. I made a jug, a traditional vessel used to pull out water from a well. I named it “Transparency”; this was a cut out piece, cut with sharp tip metal blades, and designed in such way that when seen from any angle you could see the other side of the pot. This piece won first price in a statewide ceramic competition.
This is how my career as a Black Clay Ceramic Artist begun. I started out with the right foot so to say but life doesn’t always work like this. I really struggled to sell my art pieces so for a while and temporarily left my art and followed my profession.
The process of creation of a black clay vessel is very lengthy and dependent on the weather. My pieces are totally made by hand, with a traditional pre-Columbian potter’s wheel (a bowl placed upside-down with another bowl placed on top). The potter’s wheel rotates on its axel.
This is how a piece is built and it can take from 5 to 25 days to build depending on the size and complexity of design.
When it is finally built I proceed to trim the excess clay, and start the design, etching, cutting, bas-relief, high relief, pastillaje (small pieces of clay added onto the main surface).
The next step is the first burnishing, done with a mamey fruit seed, a piece of bamboo, or a deer’s antler. The piece is left to dry for approximately 10 days. When ready it is burnished with a quartz stone bringing out the natural beautiful sheen.
After the last burnishing the pieces are place in an underground kiln for 12 hours. This is how the clay turns into a beautiful black.
As you can see, a piece takes about 25 to 30 days to create!
I think my work’s main differences with that of other traditional black clay artist are that I incorporate design elements, I have a specific process of creation, a methodology and most of all they have meaning. They are not made just for the sake of making them. I obsess over the design, the line-work, symmetry, and composition and of course the theme of my work.
I plan on teaching children how to work with clay so they fall in love with it, and continue our ancestral legacy. If they have the talent I would like to teach them what I’ve learned. I feel compelled to preserve, encourage and get people to know about this art.
I would like to keep on learning and reaching new heights with my art, creating innovative pieces so that hopefully, more people become aware of my work.
I would like to end this short introduction to my work with one of my favorite quotes by the best Mexican Architect, Luis Barragan:
“To understand and be totally contemporary we have to reconcile with tradition