San Bartolo Coyotepec is famous for the elaboration of products of black clay, producing them by hand and baked in underground kilns. Coyotopec comes from “Coyotl”, Coyote and “Tepec”, Mountain. This place is one of the most recognized worldwide for the elaboration of this handicraft.
The black clay is extracted from a place near to the town, it has special properties, since when baked, it acquires a completely black color and crystalline sound that characterizes this type of ceramics.
The clay is kneaded and once it is soft, the craftsman starts to form the figure that he will create. When that is accomplished, it is left to dry in the sun for four days. Then it is scraped and left to dry again, in order to achieve the shine. It is again left for four days. After that, it is placed in the kiln. The next day the pieces are taken out, washed, dried and they are ready to sell.
Among these pieces you will find: pots, jars, whistles, flutes, rattles, little bells, bowls, bottles for mescal, masks, bases for table lamps, figures of animals and many decorative objects. Of the workshops that exist in the town, the most famous is that of Doña Rosa, an artisan now passed away, but who for many years dedicated herself to the creation and promotion of this handicraft. In her house/workshop, now attended to by her sons and daughters, you can observe the procedure first hand, besides seeing a collection of photographs that show the awards she obtained. Now the pieces that Doña Rosa herself made are museum pieces.
The openwork of some of the pieces is done the fourth day after they were molded, so that the piece is neither very dry now very humid. The brilliant finish is achieved polishing the objects by hand, with pieces of quartz, before placing them in the kiln. All pieces produced today are decorative, with the exception of the small jugs (cántaros) used for mezcal.
The whole family intervenes in the elaboration of the black ceramics; they are hospitable people and pleased to demonstrate the visitor the ancient methods of working the black clay.
Since 1985 it has become the fashion to make floral drawings, creating openwork on the bowls, which involves great care. This has led to a new market for decoration purposes, since the bowls project a pleasant, and unexpected, light through these open spaces. Those that are painted are both charming and elegant.
In Coyotepec you will find bells, groups of jugs in diverse forms, spheres, bowls with openwork, and other bowls, flutes, rattles, whistles of animal figures, human*like figures (such as stylized sculptures of indigenous women)and other ornamental items.
There is a museum in town that exhibits “the black clay of Coyotepec” since July 1996.
How to get there:
You can acquire this type of handicraft in San Bartolo Coyotepec, located at 11 km (6.8 mi) via Federal Highway 175 which goes to Puerto Angel.