Lead-Free Pottery Sale hosted by Aid to Artisans at Bellas Artes aims to Enlighten, Inform and Educate
January 2005

Today in Mexico, the magic of hand-crafted items surrounds us. From a woven leather sandal to a brightly painted ceramic vase, many objects amazingly retain their indelible human stamp, even as we begin the year 2005. As Mexico's progress towards industrialization and mass production gains momentum, all handmade objects-practical, ornamental, and often times ceremonial in their intended use-may validly be regarded as art. Mexican handmade items tenaciously inhabit the narrowing space between two conflicting and opposite extremes; the world of fine art and the arena of mass production. Of great importance is the question, can Mexican artisans retain the spirit and individuality of their craft while increasing production and gaining a wider audience for their goods? The answer is, "Yes!" according to the Aid to Artisans Lead-Free Alliance Mexico Program.

Mexican folk crafts employ ancient methods handed down through generations, unchanged. For those working in clay today, the use of the same earth, the same methods of firing, and glazes containing lead are employed although viable alternatives are available. The use of lead glaze presents the greatest health risk to the Mexican potter working daily with raw materials over the course of decades. It is now possible to retain the soulful spirit of indigenous pottery without the presence of lead thanks to the efforts of the non-profit organization, Aid to Artisans, and their two-year Lead-Free Alliance Mexico Program.

Based in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, the Lead-Free Alliance Program is working hand in hand with potters to eradicate this occupational health risk. ATA experts are employing new technology in the field, including the introduction of lead-free glazes, the providing of lead-free kilns, employing cleaning and recycling methods so that existing tools and facilities are no longer contaminated, and of greatest importance, Aid to Artisans is raising the awareness of the occupational health risks associated with the daily use of lead glazes among the artisans themselves.

The natural by-product of ATA's efforts is the creation of a larger and more lucrative market for Mexican pottery. As word spreads of increased sales and the customer's preference for lead-free pottery, the switch to the use of non-hazardous materials by indigenous potters will certainly follow.

With these important goals in mind, Aid to Artisans in association with Zócalo Fine Folk Art & Furniture, a Lead-Free Alliance member, will host the Lead-Free Pottery Exhibit & Sale at San Miguel de Allende's Bellas Artes Museum. The public is invited to the Opening Reception on Thursday, January 13th at 7:00pm. The Exhibit & Sale will continue at Bellas Artes, 10:00am to 7:00pm, Friday, January 14 and 10:00am to 7:00pm, Saturday, January 15. Examples of lead free pottery from the states of Michoacán, Puebla, Hidalgo and México will be displayed and for sale. On Friday, January 15, the public is encouraged to bring one piece of older pottery to Bellas Artes between the hours of 10:00am and 4:00pm for testing of lead presence. Lead-Free Alliance experts will be on-hand to advise how to safely enjoy older pottery while introducing the new lead-free pottery now available. Wonderful photographs of working clay artisans and the presence of two Michoacán potters further make the Lead-Free Exhibition & Sale a "must attend" event.

In conjunction with events at Bellas Artes, Zócalo Fine Folk Art & Furniture has devoted an entire room of their San Miguel store to the work of artisans making the difficult and expensive change to lead-free. As a Lead-Free Alliance member, Zócalo now features the largest selection of lead-free artisan pottery available in Mexico today.

Mexican earth, blazing fire, skilled hands, and the knowledge of many generations are embodied in every piece of handmade pottery. Now safe practices resulting from new technology will also become a part of Mexico's great ceramic tradition. Discover the future of Mexican pottery as guests of Aid to Artisans and Zócalo beginning Thursday, January 13 at Bellas Artes. Admission to all events is free.

Lead-Free Exhibition & Sale Events
Thursday, January 13—
Opening Reception, 7pm, Bellas Artes

Friday, January 14
Exhibit & Sale, 10am-7pm, Bellas Artes
Lead Testing and Information, 10am-4pm, Bellas Artes
Meet the Artisans, 10am-7pm, Bellas Artes
Exhibit & Sale, 10am-7pm, Zócalo

Saturday, January 15—
Exhibit & Sale, 10am-7pm, Bellas Artes
Meet the Artisans, 10am-7pm, Bellas Artes
Exhibit & Sale, 10am-7pm, Zócalo

Bellas Artes is located at Hernández Macías #75~
Zócalo is located at Hernández Macías #110~

For more information, contact:
Jim Meadows, Program Director-Mexico, Aid to Artisans (in Pátzcuaro)
Rick & Deb Hall, Proprietors, Zócalo Fine Folk Art & Furniture (in San Miguel)