Ancestral Evidence from the Earth Inspires a Life's Work
In the beautiful village of Tzintzuntzan,
one of our favorite artisans humbly resides and works: Emilio Molinero
Hurtado. Since designated a grand master in the Banamex tome, Great Masters
of Mexican Folk Art, maybe more visitors come to buy his clay, and maybe
a journalist here and there will stop in, but other than that, life remains
tranquil and unchanged for one of Mexico's most-unique clay artisans.
As a boy, Molinero helped his father
plant the corn. With each plowing and every rain, Emilio became much more
interested in the pre-hispanic pottery shards found than in the straightness
of the corn rows. He was enchanted by the shapes, designs, and the earthy
colors ranging from rich browns to lusty reds. If his ancestors had made
these vessels, why not he? And that was more than 65 years ago.
The work ranges from giant
ollas (pots) to small duck vessels, authentic to the Chichimeca
ancestor's practical and decorative pottery. Although the famous
black ducks of Lake Pátzcuaro are long gone, their image
survives through Emilio's clay.
Working in a small work shop,
his horno (oven) is a subterranean pit in which the clay is fired
by wood. After all of these years, luck still plays its role. One
tiny air pocket or one molecule of moisture in the clay results
in the entire piece exploding during firing. But "Don Emilio"
is philosophical about such occurrences
And then he simply returns to his life's calling.
of Molinero's pre-Hispanic forms, designs and colors.
L: Formed clay dries before entering the oven for the first firing.
R: The oven from which decades of clay has emerged.
Emilio's attitude, spirit, and sense
of humor are only matched by his wife's. When asked how long they had
been married, they looked at each other, scratched their heads and burst
out laughing realizing that they had been married so long that they could
not recall how long they actually had been married. The agreed upon answer
Though Emilio created a profession
other than working the fields, his heart never is far from the land.
We always talk about the rain, the crops, and about how beautifully
the flowers bloom in their courtyard.
But today it's time to go.
Don Emilio is taking his wife to a jarepeo
a Mexican country
rodeo. And off they go down the picturesque streets of Tzintzuntzan,
as happy as teenagers on their first date.
Emilio" with one of his famous Tarascan Woman with Fish
By Debra Hall
March 31, 2004
ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO