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Discover San Bartolo Coyotepec in Oaxaca through Black Pottery

By Ale Coyote |

Works in black pottery from San Bartolo Coyotepec have acquired world prestige. Discover the secret behind these Oaxacan crafts.

Nowadays, interior design trends favor minimalism, so craftsmen are trying to reinvent their works. However, they’re doing so without forgetting their origins and their work’s authentic elaboration processes. Hence, works created with traditional techniques and materials are becoming luxury items that dress up modern homes, restaurants and hotels.

Contemporary Mexican Interior Design

Black pottery (barro negro) is an example of this evolution in artwork. It has become the perfect material for decoration in restaurants and hotels. This is because it looks great in large spaces, for example, those with floor-to-ceiling windows. In those cases, sizeable furniture in grey, white and black colors are perfect decoration companions. To decorate coffee tables, abstract sculptures are great. And for spaces where a touch of color is required,  floor vases containing bamboo plants are ideal.

San Bartolo Coyotepec, The Homeland of Mexican Black Pottery

Travel to the state of Oaxaca, in Mexico, and admire wonderful crafts in black clay. Oaxaca is also famous for its multiple contributions to Mexican gastronomy, such as mezcalagave nectar with 40 degrees of alcohol. Your trip to Oaxaca will be enjoyable for all your senses.  And if you like art, you can buy an object of black pottery. DINKtravelers, your world travel guide, recommends you to visit the crafts workshops in San Bartolo Coyotepec.

Discover the Town of San Bartolo Coyotepec

South of Oaxaca, you can find the town of San Bartolo Coyotepec, which was built by the same architect who built the city of Oaxaca. The origin of this community is pre-Hispanic. Numerous archaeological discoveries prove that there were many Zapotec settlements in San Bartolo Coyotepec.  One of them was Zaapeche, which means “place of jaguars”.

San Bartolo Coyotepec is home to a large number of artists who put their effort into the creation of invaluable pieces. This is very important since it is the only place in Oaxaca where black pottery is made.

Elaboration Process of Black Pottery

Black pottery has acquired world prestige particularly due to its delicate elaboration process. It begins with the extraction of clay from the skirts of the mountains to make mud. Then, the clay is taken to the craft workshops of San Bartolo Coyotepec. There, it is put to dry on mats. Then, it is moistened and  spread on a mat to be kneaded with the feet. This preparation process can take up to four days. Next, it is exposed to very high temperatures in a kiln.

Unlike common clay, the black variety is heated for a longer period, hence its deep dark color. This technique is called “atmospheric reduction” and has been used in San Bartolo Coyotepec for a long time. Actually, the challenge in its elaboration is that if it’s heated for too long, it could break. Once baked, craftsmen use a smooth piece of obsidian to sand the surface down until it acquires a metallic shiny appearance.

Black Pottery, The Perfect Souvenir of Your Trip

Finished works are exhibited in stores inside the workshops. There, you’ll find uncountable black pottery crafts in different shapes and sizes. You’ll find the perfect decoration for stair landings and sculptures or vases for living rooms and lobbies.

[Agregar foto de una artesanía de barro negro]

Market of Black Pottery in San Bartolo Coyotepec

In downtown San Bartolo Coyotepec, you’ll find the Black Pottery Market. This market is small but has a great variety of Oaxacan crafts. Originally, the founders of this market were 14 families, but currently only around 40 families work in it.

Black Pottery as Part of the Handcraft Tradition and Folk Art in Oaxaca

One of the most enriching experiences you can have when visiting the workshops in San Bartolo Coyotepec is talking with local artisans. They are always proud to show you their high quality work and willing to kindly show you their craft. In conclusion, apart from having the chance to buy a custom-made artwork from Oaxaca, you’ll have the opportunity to witness its elaboration process first-hand.

Now that you know how black pottery is made, visit San Bartolo Coyotepec in your next trip to southwest Mexico. Don’t miss the opportunity to admire the Oaxacan crafts and talk with the artisans to discover more about their art.