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Consuelo Rendón, Naïve Blanco y Negro Claywork
September 2002

The cream-colored plates, platters and bowls are immediately recognizable and authentically made by only one artista in the tiny village of Tzintzuntzan…the joyful and industrious Consuelo Rendón. Although this style is known as "blanco y negro", the distinctive pottery is a wonderful earthy brown rendition of farmers, fishermen, suns and mermaids afloat on a creamy background.

The life of Consuelo and her family is well-documented by over 50 years of research by UC Berkley anthropologist, George M. Foster. In the book resulting from his research, Empire's Children: The People of Tzintzuntzan, Consuelo's entire growing-up was documented in detail as one of 12 families focused upon in this intense anthropological study. It is a photograph in this book that captures the time when Consuelo first remembers making clay by her mother's side…the famous Natividad Peña. Consuelo was eight years old…over fifty years ago.

ABOVE: The work of Consuelo's mother, Natividad Peña as displayed in the Gene Byron Museum and Hacienda, Marfil, Guanajuato.
How delighted was Consuelo to see the photos of her mother's work displayed in Marfil's Gene Byron Museum, of which she owns none. Always quick with a since of humor, Consuelo quickly pointed out the thickness of her mother's brush strokes, as compared to the fine lines of her own painting…with a huge belly laugh!

Such is the magnetism of her work that she is commissioned to do entire place-settings for weddings and other special occasions. I am surprised when I enter a kitchen in Mexico and there is NOT a Consuelo Rendón platter hanging on the wall or resting on a trastero.
The famed "sirenas" (mermaids) and other objects are glazed and await the "horno" (oven) for firing.
    The kiln (or horno) where tons of artistry
    has emerged over decades, is a
    simple brick oven.

Pieces for firing are carefully placed inside with pottery shards layered between. All firing is done with pine scrap wood which tells of Consuelo's experience in knowing how hot, how long, and how to carefully cool the pottery once fired.

The unique "respaldas" (head planters which hold plants or candles) eerily line the floor awaiting packing. In addition to fanciful clay mermaids, the respaldas are among the pieces for which Consuelo is best-known.


Consuelo and her husband (a fisherman on Lake Pátzcuaro…notice the light green fishing nets bundled behind him in the photo to the right), discuss pricing as they show us our order in their home in Tzintzuntzan.

2002 has been a hard year, but a good one also. Consuelo's husband had a hernia operation in January and without his help, she did not make the heavy large platters for many months until he could lift again. But all is well in the household, her husband strong, and her adult daughter painting and learning by her side.

On sunny days, you will always find Consuelo patiently watching over her wares in the plaza outside of the Templos near the straw market. Each piece rides to the plazita in a wheelbarrow, then home again at the end of the day.

But Day of the Dead approaches, and she anticipates many sales to tourists from her puesto in the special market at the foot of the pyramids. These are the good days in Tzintzuntzan when all the world comes to this tiny village and tiny cemetery to marvel at the graves. And we will be there too to enjoy our ponche, "CON!", with Consuelo. "Con" meaning please add some cane alcohol (chiranda) to my hot punch!

The work of Consuelo Rendón is irresistible in its naivety, and as a unique pottery style only found in this casa de Tzintzuntzan.

Deb Hall

Updates as of November 2007:
In August 2004, everything in Consuelo's life changed forever.  Read the follow up to the above story, A Life Transformed.