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Carlos de la Cruz, Slender Divas En Calavera

January 15, 2003

On the side of a mountain overlooking the village of Capula, Michoacán, the de la Cruz family resides in a warm adobe home surrounded by a courtyard, fruit trees and flowers…and the all-important taller and horno (workshop and oven) from where the greatest Catrina clay art in Mexico emerges.

Alvaro de la Cruz is the maestro who has taught his children well, each working in the Catrina form, and each in their own distinctive style. It is Carlos who has taken the direction of creating 8-10" tall, delicately slender divas, en calavera.

The photo on the right is deceptive in that these figures only stand about 10" tall, and have waists about ½" wide. To the right, the size of the tiny nun is put into perspective by the stack of clay bowls pictured behind.






Carlos began making catrinas at the age of 10. His customers demanded smaller and more delicate work, and now the most fragile of catrinas made are his specialty.

Steady hands, an intimate knowledge of the characteristics of clay, and perfect eye sight are required during this patient process. The work is slow, and in such demand that all must be ordered in advance.

After forming each tiny masterpiece, Carlos holds his breath as they fire in the kiln…once to form the clay figure, and a second firing to adhere the glaze. One tiny bit of moisture will cause the piece to explode probably taking several other pieces with it.

Carlos at work in his taller (workshop).

One advantage to working in this small format is that many pieces can fit into the kiln for each firing.

At 24 years old, Carlos is recognized as one of the most collectable clay catrina artists along with his brothers and father, Alvaro de la Cruz. In November 2001, he won first place for his catrina in the highly competitive Concurso (juried show) at Day of the Dead in Pátzcuaro. In 2002, he garnered prizes at both the Capula Concurso and the Morelia Concurso…no small feat.

His work is so delicate, so slender, that one marvels that these fabulous ladies with attitude are actually made of clay…and yet they indeed are.

By Debra Hall
ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO
Pátzcuaro, MEXICO