Online Exhibit - Barro Negro Pottery
Barro Negro, or black mud, is a style of pottery from Oaxaca, Mexico. Oaxaca is one of few Mexican states which is characterized by the continuance of its ancestral crafts, which are still used in everyday life. Ceramics were considered one of the highest art forms during the Aztec Empire, with the knowledge of making pottery said to have come from the god Quetzalcoatl himself. Pre-Hispanic pottery was made by coiling the clay into a circle then up the sides, then scraping and molding the coiled work until the coils could no longer be detected. In the 1950s, Doña Rosa, a potter from San Bartolo Coyotepec in Oaxaca, devised a way to put a black metallic like sheen onto the pottery by polishing it before firing. Rosa used a quartz stone to polish the surface of the pot and then fired it at a slightly lower temperature than traditional pieces. After firing, the piece emerges a shiny black instead of a dull gray. Rosa’s barro negro pottery became world famous because of its distinguishing color, sheen and unique designs. Today, about 600 families in the San Bartolo Coyotepec region dedicate themselves to the barro negro craft. The potter, Magdalena Pedro Martinez, uses Rosa’s pottery technique to create magnificent female figures dressed in regional dress and other objects based on daily life and the natural world.