Painted Clay

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Painted Clay Barro Pintado is made by Nahuatl painters from La Mezcala, a region on the Balsas River basin in Guerrero State.

The pottery features animals, boxes, plates and bowls beautifully painted with colorful birds, deer, flowers and scenes that represent the artists' life and culture.

Pottery production in Oapan and Ameyaltepec dates from pre-Hispanic times. Women made pots and plates, ceremonial pieces and human and animal figures used as toys.

In the 1950's foreign tourism began coming to Mexico; Taxco, Acapulco and Cuernavaca, became outlets for the Balsas crafters. Soon painting styles became colorful, decorative, featuring fantasy animal figures, some nonrealistic humans and plenty of floral and geometric designs.

In 1962 the use of Amate paper changed the Mezcala folk painting. Artisans became chroniclers of their culture representing their life and traditions on their artwork.

The painting style developed by Amate painters was soon used in the pottery.

painted clay fish

Story fish plate

Religious and cultural events; farming, fishing, hunting and crafting scenes filled the pots, plates and boxes in a style known as pottery with stories or barro con historia.

The Balsas folk artists became internationally known for their painting.
In a few years artisans looking for new styles began painting wooden fish and rabbits.

Wooden fish mobile
Wooden fish mobile.

Painted Clay Making Process
As in everything else in these communities the whole family takes a share making a barro pintado piece.

Most of the pottery used by the Balsas painters comes from Tuliman one of the villages in the region. The clay pieces are shaped with molds, fired on wood firing kilns and sanded.

Sometimes the clay piece is white coated first. Next the piece is drawn with a pencil. The drawing is filled with acrylic paintings. When the paint has dried the piece is varnished with an acrylic lacquer.

The craft making is alternated with the harvesting, the livestock grazing, the domestic work and the town celebrations.

Artist painting clay vessel

Pencil drawing.

Different Styles
The Barro Pintado just as the Amate paper paintings has two main painting styles.

Some pottery is painted with flowers, birds, deer and rabbit while other is decorated with the community celebrations or their everyday activities.

Painted clay Cacatua

Story clay Cacatua

Important Villages in the Mezcala
There are several villages in the area that paint on clay, amate or wood, but for their geographic location or their historical background these are considered special in the painted clay development as a folk art style:

Oapan has a pre-Hispanic pottery tradition and was the first place where painted clay was made.

Ameyaltepec is hometown of Pedro de Jesus and Cristino Flores Medina pioneers in the Amate paintings. The biggest evolution in the painting style was accomplished there.

Xalitla a small village located next to the federal highway from Mexico City to Acapulco, became a producing and selling center for many Guerrero folk art styles.



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