Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Visiting a Guanacasta Pottery in Costa Rica

This sign pulled us into a wonderful pottery visit where we saw two fellows throwing on their handmade and hand operated potter's wheels.

This snake pot appeared to be a one of kind pot in their pot.
Susan purchases some wall plaques for her new cabanas for a monkey room, a turtle room, an iguana room and a butterfly room. They are well made and highly burnished.

Miguel was very proud of his new fountain design and it looked like it would work w
ell. Later he invited me throw on a potters wheel next to him.
Decorative mugs with traditional designs, maybe a little narrow on the top for me but lovely.

Notice the color of the natural clay with the frog design.

After adding a terrsigalotta type surface, Miguel uses a scaffito style technique to re-expose the clay accenting his designs.

Miguel's cousin (I think) demonstrates throwing on the potter's wheel for us.

Pot shard laying next to open air kiln.

The clay studio and shop.

Wood fuel for the kiln.

Pots drying upside down.

Clay pounder and mixer.

Wood fired kiln. He says he fires to 1500 Cent (that is really hot, does he really know?) Pots are placed in center of kiln, covered with wood and left to burn for only 20 minutes. I must come back and see this happen. That is an incredible technical feat. The kiln is bricks, rebar and more clay on top. The lean to it is under looks a bit singed.

Master potter at work throwing on the wheel. They teach clay work at school and this is a family business with lots of cousins producing about 20-25 pots a day.

The wheel looked like it was made from bicycle parts.

The clay is 50% sand and dug locally.

Throwing included patching and adding coils unlike US methods of throwing. Notice the pvc pipe used as a brace to keep the pot on center.

This was a fantastic experience to be part of as an old potter. We visited Guanacoasta looking for pottery shops. We saw the sign, pulled over and were greeted by two fine young men who gave us a tour and also let me throw on the potters wheel with them when I told them I was a potter from the US. They spoke no English so we talked through the clay. We did not seem to need words and what words we did need, Tom and Susan translated. It was delightful to experience such a cultural exchange. As a potter for 35 years I was delighted to see new techniques such as using 50% sand making a very sandy throwing clay, throwing with one hand at a time, and breaking many rules I have been taught and learned over the years. This old dog likes to learn new tricks.
One observation was they had great burnished sufaces with an incredibly sandy clay body. How can this be?
They fire to 1500C which is probably cone 12 or so, gotta look it up when I get home and I always think of burnished ware being low fire or it begins to dissapear. How can this be?
They complete a firing in 20 minutes using wood in a kiln that looks like a bread oven. How can this be?

The good news is, if I can figure out how to get a grant or win the lottery (not likely since I don't play it) I am invited to come back and work, study and learn with these guys. What an experience that would be. I could probably live with a local family and stay a few weeks. This all brings me back to my original interests and specialty in clay from grad school days. I specialized in Mexican, African and Native American building and firing techniques.

I would like to dig clay with them, process it with them and figure out their chemical sources for the colors in their pottery. The firing technique would be great to understand as well. And of course, I would like to write about this to share it with others. Perhaps we could have a show in their studio and mine as well. I am delighted to have this invitation. An arts grant would be the way to make this happen and if not I will just have to sell more of my wonderful "stuff."

Could a MacArther grant ever come my way? What a dream come true that would be.

Meanwhile I do plan on bringing a bunch of students to study in Costa Rica and these guys will definately be on our list of places to visit. What a beautiful day.

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