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Merging all the art forms of Capula into fine, decorative platters~

Capula, Michoacán is a thriving center for the clay arts in Mexico. Famous for decorative "vajillas" (complete sets of low-fire clay dishware), and stunning clay catrinas (fragile ceramic skeletons), this village is always busy on weekends, full of tourists and collectors who enjoy the scenic tree-lined drive on "old Highway 15".

While many excel in painting very fine platters with tiny fish and monarch butterfly designs, it is the unique platters of Fidel Avalos that bring together all elements of the clay arts of Capula.

LEFT: Fidel finishes a platter by sanding any rough
edges that might remain after firing.
RIGHT: Summer is the time for his son to advance
his already fine painting style.

Drawing from the traditions of dishware AND ceramic catrinas, it is our opinion that Fidel Avalos produces the best examples of painted platters featuring dancing, drinking and comical "calaveras" (meaning skulls or skeletons in Spanish).

Both of the above examples of prints by JOSE GUADALUPE POSADA are from Posada Printmaker to the Mexican People ©1944 by the Art Institute of Chicago.

Fidel Avalos, as are all artisans working "en el estilo en calavera", is influenced by the prints of JOSE GUADALUPE POSADA, 1851-1913, who is now recognized as Mexico's greatest and most-beloved graphic artist. Posada's satirical newsprint illustrations were sold on street corners for mere pesos to Mexico's poorest urban residents. His prints openly taunted the rich excesses of the "Porfiriato" (the regime of President Porfirio Díaz, 1851-1913), while Posada himself lived in poverty and obscurity 'til death. It was only in death, and with revolution and time, that the popularity and fame of the great Posada reached cult status in Mexico (and in the United States).


Fidel's references to Posada are direct. But with the infusion of bold colors, the adding of borders and decoration, and the artful application onto an indigenous clay canvas, this Posada homage legitimately becomes the "arte" of maestro Fidel Avalos.

LEFT: The tools of the trade.
RIGHT: A Virgin of Guadalupe platter in progress.

I am always fascinated by the artisan's tools and workspace. Universal is the presence of the squirrel's tail from which the finest brushes (some only 3-hairs in fineness) are handmade. The painted platters, pre-fire, are dull, curious in color, and completely conceal what will ultimately emerge from the "horno".

Father and son work side by side through the summer.
Rick enjoys the conversation while checking on ZOCALO's orders.

With our encouragement, Fidel now proudly signs every piece of work. I have wanted to write about Fidel's glorious platters for quite some time, but frankly, we have not had the chance to photograph the work once it reached our store with everything selling within hours. Taking no chances this trip, I photographed every plate in Fidel's Capula "taller". And yes, once again, almost everything pictured in this "Postcard from Mexico" was claimed as we unpacked, never having been displayed on ZOCALO's walls.

Orders are in process, and we are anxious to retrieve all in Capula in anticipation of Día de los Muertos, 2004. For those who believe that Rick and I own at least one of everything, are own collection for the moment remains, "sin Fidel" . Invariably, as we try and choose our favorite platter, our selection "walks out the door"…to our delight. We couldn't be happier to place yet another order with the deserving, and hard working family of FIDEL AVALOS, whose creative work incorporates so many Mexican traditions into one.

September 5, 2004
By Debra Hall
ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO
Pátzcuaro, MEXICO


Images and information about Posada, see Posada Printmaker to the Mexican People ©1944 by the Art Institute of Chicago