Barro Negro (Black) Oaxacan Pottery
To Contact: This artisanís page is part of the Feria Maestros del Arte website, a non-profit organization providing a yearly venue for Mexican folk artisans to come together to sell their work. If you wish to purchase the artisan's work other than at the Feria, you MUST contact them directly.
Av. Independencia #29
Fidel Martínez Martínez was born July 26, 1970 in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca. He has had his hands in the clay of Oaxaca since he was a young child. He studied under his father and Sra. Inés Martínes Barranco when he was just five years old.
His natural abilities were soon evident as he created figures of animals, dolls dressed in the traditional garb of his area. These were all made in miniature and often sold as toys. As he matured, he says he "put away his toys" and his work centered on creating from his heart. Fidel was being commissioned to do busts and sculptures but he found this work ungratifying and returned to what he loves — folk art objects that reflect the culture and life of Oaxaca and have a "real" story to tell such as the photo to the right — "Carreta con buyes tres personaje" (Cart pulled by bulls with 3 people). Notice the 10 peso coin at the foot of the wheel. This gives you an idea of how small this entire figurine is (14 cm tall x 25 cm long x 13 cm wide).
San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca has produced pottery for centuries. Pottery artifacts unearthed in many of Oaxaca's archaeological sites have been traced to the clay found only in this area. The earthenware vessels were once used to transport mescal from hillside farms into the communities for sale. The containers held about 3 gallons each and were lashed together and slung over the backs of burros for the journey. With the advent of plastic jugs, the use of the heavy pottery was abandoned. The potters of Coyotepec began to search for new applications of their pottery skills.
Doña Rosa, a legend in the pottery world (she died in 1980), came up with a method for making decorative black pottery from the local clay. Her work has received numerous awards and is included in collections worldwide including those of Rockefeller and the Smithsonian.
The technique she developed to give the black pottery its trademark sheen is the burnishing of the pot with quartz. No glazes are used. The potters of Coyotepec continue to use their traditional method of turning pots without a wheel. The technique uses two concave clay plates, one upside down supporting the other. This method is of pre-Hispanic inheritance, the pieces are molded on this device. The entire process to develop a finished piece takes 20 to 30 days and goes from molding to decoration, to slow drying in closed rooms, polishing with a quartz stone and finally to baking where the pieces acquire their notable black color. Although Doña Rosa attempted to keep her technique a secret, eventually word got out. The pottery is decorative only and should not be used for cooking or serving.
Fidel has entered several Concursos (judged shows). Two of his most pretigious awards were Second Place in the Concurso Nacional de Nacimientos Nacionales (Nativity Scenes), First Place in the Premio Nacional de la Ceramica (the largest ceramic show in Mexico).
The tourism that Oaxacan artists rely on for their livelihoods has been in jeopardy over the last year and a half due to civil unrest and travel bans that have kept the tourists away. Bringing Floriberta to Feria Maestros del Arte along with other folk artists from Oaxaca will hopefully open the eyes of Feria-goers to the fact that Oaxaca is once again a safe place to travel and seek out the art that Oaxaca has become famous for.