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Black Clay (barro negro in Spanish) from Oaxaca famous for its color, sheen and unique shapes and decorative designs is made in a small village called San Bartolo Coyotepec, and although the ancient Zapotecs already used the same clay to make their pottery ware it was thanks to Rosa Real's technique that it became world famous.
The settlement was known as Zaapeche, (place of many jaguars) by the Zapotec and after the Spanish conquest was named San Bartolome Coyotepec by Bartolome Sanchez, a conqueror awarded a local Encomienda, who built the first town,s church in 1532.
The area soils made grayish mate clay that was used by potters to make jars and dishes. For centuries no significant change in the pottery making process was made until the early 1950's when potter Rosa Real discovered that by polishing the clay pieces before they were completely dry and lowering the firing temperature the clay changed its color to a shiny black.
The spin made by Doña Rosa turned the barro negro from Oaxaca into an international hit and soon tourists from around the world began traveling to San Bartolo Coyotepec to visit Doña Rosa's workshop. Black clay technique spread around town and other workshops began to produce it.
Don Juventino passed away in 1978 followed by Doña Rosa in 1980. Their son Valente Nieto ran the workshop until his death in 2010. Nowadays Doña Rosa's workshop is run by Valente's sons.
After the pieces are shaped they are set to dry in a room, this process can take around 3 weeks. When the pieces are almost dry, the surface is lightly moistened and polished with a quartz stone.
At this stage decorative accents such as flower drawings, intricate openwork or small handles are added. The pieces are then fired in wood firing underground pits or above the ground kilns reaching 700°C to 800°C. These low firing temperatures produce a fragile clay that can be used only to decorative purposes.
In 1996 he founded a workshop in his hometown where he teaches sculpting to children and created a new art form in barro negro: the clay figures.
Carlomagno sculptures are inspired in traditional Oaxaca characters, Catholic events, Day of the Dead and Carnivals. Every sculpture is hand coiled and unique. He has exhibited his artwork in galleries in Mexico and U.S.A.
One of his most outstanding pieces is the black clay mural called Juego en el Inframundo (Game in the Underworld) created especially for the San Bartolo Coyotepec High Performance Baseball Academy.
The mural depicts five Mixteca ball skeleton players on each side flanking 2 baseball skeleton players and a skeleton umpire in the center. On the umpire's head lies a jaguar, the most emblematic animal in the town's culture.Please mouseover image and use wheel to zoom in-out.