Arte Casbal & María Luisa Balbuena Palacios
Polychrome Clay Ceramics
Jorge Castillo Balbuena
María Luisa Balbuena Palacio
Flashes of color brighten the lives of Puebla's inhabitants. Thanks to them the art of polychrome pottery has reached the highest levels of precision and beauty known worldwide.
Their cooperative, Arte Casbal, has a mission to preserve and promote the art of polychrome clay from Izúcar de Matamoros, Puebla. The seven members work together as well as creating individual pieces. Popular ceramic sculptures called Arbóles de la Vida (Trees of Life) are highly sought after for their brilliant colors and imaginative themes. Jorge’s brothers concentrate on the hand-modeling and polishing, while Jorge’s forte is painting. Through the mud and the color are created very diverse art pieces that evoke Mexican folklore, vessels with animals that seem to flit around, skulls, skulls and other motifs remind us that death is just one step in the circle of life.
In 2013, Arte Casbal was awarded Third Place in the traditional pottery category at Patronato Nacional de la Cerámica in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco. The award was presented to him by President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto. Arte Casbal’s specialty is polychrome sculptures that bear their special technique of blending the traditional with the contemporary – trees of life, Catrinas, chandeliers, sculptures, etc.
María Luisa started working with polychrome clay when she married at 19 years old and is the fifth generation to do so in her family. Her husband is the son of Catalina orta de Castillo who has been credited with rescuing this traditional craft in Izúcar de Matamoros. She taught María the traditional process to create not only with clay but with the heart.
No longer married, she credits her art with allowing her to be independent. She provided for her children through her work and now they have their own workshops. She loves her work because it makes her feel alive and useful. Although she now has arthritis in her hands and it slows her down a bit, she continues to work.
She works with 3 other people; her nephew, Felipe, her daughter and her granddaughter who is already learning the trade although she is only seven-years old. They all participate in the entire process including the firing, however, they rotate jobs so as not to be doing the same thing all the time. Sometimes, one will create the piece and another will paint it.
In 2016, she won third place in the Fonart Gran Premio de Arte Popular. She had never entered a concurso (judged show) before.