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