DAY OF THE DEAD CERAMICS, NEGRO BRILLIANTE
January 9, 2003
I cannot imagine Day
of the Dead without thinking of the special, black ceramic
candelabras and incense urns that decorate every grave in
the cemeteries surrounding Lake Pátzcuaro. Some of
the most-awarded and delicate work is crafted in the home
of Manuel Jeronimo Reyes of Santa Fe de la Laguna, Michoacán.
Now 42 years old, Manuel
began working in clay at the age of 12 learning the art from
home is filled with children, sisters, chickens, rabbits and
a wonderful array of flowers, orchids and fruit trees
under the maternal care of his gracious mother. Although her
hands are gnarled and her gait slow, she always welcomes us
with a genuine smile and rushes to bring us chairs so that we
are comfortable in her casa. Her pride in her son's work is
evident as we place an order.
and Manuel discuss business in the courtyard of the Jeronimo
Filled with the images
of lakeside life, Manuel's work takes on a lacey appearance
as he adorns his candelabras and poncheras with glossy,
delicate black butterflies and doves.
seems to be three fires going in the Jeronimo home;
the horno for the clay in the rear, the pot of sopa
de verduras, and of course steaming frijoles.
mother gives full attention to one of her grandchildren.
September is the busiest
time of year for Señor Jeronimo when his art is in
the greatest demand in preparation for Muertos. The finest
decorated graves will feature at least one vessel to burn
copal, the wonderful incense of Mexico
and at least
several candelabras filled with candles of the region used
to light the way of the returning souls on November 1.
Ironically this is
also the rainy season and the process is slow with sculpted
pieces refusing to dry. But somehow all works out because
Manuel Jeronimo Reyes garnered a first place premio for
one of his intricate candelabras submitted for the Day of
the Dead Concurso 2002 (juried show) in Pátzcuaro.
by the famous black pottery of Oaxaca, the brilliant
ebony ceramics unique to Santa Fe de la Laguna are
gaining devotees and collectors from all over the
world, but have always been appreciated, ceremoniously
used, and a loving part of every home altar in the
villages surrounding Lake Pátzcuaro for more
than a century.
By Debra Hall
ZOCALO Fine Folk Art
San Miguel de Allende, MEXICO