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Ofelia Gamez Timoteo, Clay as Rich as Chocolate!

Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán

I have not before described clay as being like chocolate…until now. Having seen the new LEAD-FREE work of Ofelia Gamez Timoteo, I can only describe the finished clay as being as wonderful, and as rich as Mexican chocolate!

Doña Ofelia, always smiling!

The joyful Doña Ofelia not only lives and works in Tzintzuntzan, Michoacán, but is also mother to Angelica Morales Gamez, Manuel Morales Gamez and Teresa Morales Gamez: three of Mexico's most successful modern ceramicists.

Doña Ofelia continues to work daily following the death of her husband, Miguel Morales Estrada. She coaxes the prepared earth into plates, bowls and tiles, then allows fate and weather to dictate when each piece will be ready for the horno.

Left: Work, glazed and waiting.
Right: The horno waits.

Ofelia takes great pride in having invested and successfully made the transition to 100% lead-free pottery in her own indigenous style. The monetary investment of a completely separate horno, plus re-learning the use of new glazes is expensive, time-consuming, and a tribute to every artisan who successfully makes the transition to lead-free. The success of Doña Ofelia's results are evident.

The lead-free process requires two firings. The first firing is 3 hours at a very low or "slow" temperature, then one more hour at a "strong" temperature. The second firing begins with one hour of "slow" firing, finishing with four hours of "strong" or hot firing. All together, that is nine hours of firing in the horno which represents nine hours of fuel and hours of vigilance. One must appreciate the dedication required.

A beautiful bowl for posole?

How amazing and wonderful that this widow, who has been working in clay for more than 40 years, commits to learning a completely new way…a completely new lead-free process. Doña Ofelia is a true pioneer, modern in thought, and through her work having her say about the future of artesanal clay in Mexico.

July 10, 2004
By Debra Hall
ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO
Pátzcuaro, MEXICO