UPDATE ON PETER C: “I’m doing well, responding to my chemo program with cancer indicators going steadily down and my back and fractured bones are knitting well. I can drive limited distances, walk a few blocks etc., sold my hard riding Toyota truck and bought a Honda CR-V. I bought a small electric kiln and hope to start firing soon. “
Elinor Maroney is spending a year volunteering with the Nicaragua program. We will be posting excerpts from Elinor’s journal. At the time of this writing, she is in the remote village of El Ojoche helping the potters with their throwing skills. I have excerpted a section about making new adobe bricks for an addition to the group studio:
The trail from Rosa’s house to the studio is different now and makes a longer detour since the Brigade helped excavate an area for a new studio addition. The area we excavated with pick, heavy metal bar and shovel is now filled with 700 adobe building blocks the women potters have made since we were here a month ago. The women were processing clay by putting it in water, breaking up the largest lumps with their hands and then putting it through a screen into a settling tank. They said it takes about 8 days to dry out to where they can use it.
In the evening I watched while some young men cobbled together a pipe hook-up with a coke bottle in the middle that pumped water down to the studio. One of them pumped for about an hour while the other two carried the buckets of water to a clay pit nearby.
While I ate breakfast I realized the crew was back pumping water to the studio. I had checked it out last night and they were putting water into a pit full of adobe they had shoveled near the studio. This morning they are using that adobe clay mixed with some tall grass chopped into small pieces with a machete and filling the mold over and over. This morning it is two young guys and their dad – family of one of the potters. Before the day was over they had made another 110 adobe bricks.
Concepcion’s sons had blisters on their hands and bruises on their shoulders from carrying the buckets full of adobe from the pit to the mold. It was her husband and sons who made the adobe bricks. One of the young boys was in the pit in clay up to his knees. He shoveled the clay up the side of the pit into a 5-gallon bucket. His brother carried the bucket to the mold across the studio and dumped it onto a piece of burlap while the father filled the mold with his hands and smoothed the top with water. The mold was lifted and moved over for the next filling. They worked until the pit was empty.
A brief report by Ron’s daughter, Ana Gabriela Power, about a visit she made to a factory in Cambodia:
Today I visited one of the water filter factory in Cambodia, the one that was named in memory of Ron. The factory is a social enterprise, and goes from manufacturing the filter to marketing it to the families and linking lower income families with micro-credit.
This is a version of what Ron dreamed the filter business would look like: although they were originally set up by an NGO, now they run as a business. At the factory there is a sculpture of Ron’s face that made me smile. Apparently it was made using the same technique that Cambodians use to commemorate kings.
For more information about this enterprise, visit www.hydrologichealth.com.
I found this sentence in a blog recently: Ceramics and pottery is a large and historical tradition in Nicaragua. The history of pottery dates back to the Spanish Conquest, 2,500 years ago. (http://nicaraguaviva.wordpress.com/2012/09/13/ceramics-pottery/)
I gasp at the mistakes, grammatical and factual in those two sentences, but pottery had a tradition in Nicaragua long before the conquistadors arrived, somewhat less that 2,500 years ago. Indeed, the indigenous potters were probably lucky that the Spanish didn’t introduce European pottery here, as they did in Mexico. Glazes were not used anywhere in ancient America and Spanish glazes were lead-based. The introduction of lead-based glazes to Mexico has lead to a heritage of lead poisoning. In Nicaragua, present day potters continue to pot as their ancestors did, forming pots by hand, decorating with colored clays, and burnishing the surfaces to make them shiny and water-tight.
Santa Rosa is one of the few agrarian co-operatives remaining from the Sandinista era. The co-op was formed in the ’80s by 30 families who had been displaced by the terror and chaos of the insurrection against Somoza and the US involvement. (Remember the Iran-Contra affair?) Today it consists of about 700 people who farm 3000 acres of land. All families must participate in the communal farm. No one can move into Santa Rosa unless they’ve lived therefor six months and have proven their work ethic. The community is far more prosperous than many we visited. We stayed overnight with Consuelo, Isidro and their extended family of potters.
Loma Ponda: On the top of a mountain, an hour from Somoto, about a kilometer from the Honduran border. We travel by pick-up truck because the roads are too bad for the van. Then about a mile’s hike to the top of the mountain because the final road washed out a couple of years ago. Finished pots are carried down this road to market. Says the women: “We have everything that supports us. Animals—pigs, chickens and a cow. The land provides clay and colors. Everything we need is here. God has provided.”
Nicaragua post 2: The resist and smoke decorations of the Ducuale Grande pottery co-operative near Condega. The women use chicken feathers to apply a resist design of clay mixed with ashes on already-fired pieces. The pots are carefully placed back in the kiln and smoked for a few minutes. The clay/ash mix is then washed off, exposing, beneath the slip, red clay that hasn’t been exposed to the fire.
Ann Schunior, one of the 2014 Brigadistas to Nicaragua, has put together some fabulous posts about the trip. We’re sharing them with your on our blog, about one a week, so keep checking back for more of her insights and pictures! Read on…..
I’m back from 2 weeks in Nicragua with Potters for Peace, where a group of seven American potters shared experiences and techniques with Nicaraguan potters. Benita Romero of La Paz Centro is the most traditional potter we visited. Benita makes comales—a clay pan for cooking tortillas—as the women in her family have for generations. She then taught us to make tortillas the same way she makes the pots—by patting them out with the palm of her hand. We made tortillas and ate them with queso blanco. The comales in the kiln were at least 18” across, though she also makes smaller ones.
The 2014 Brigade to Nicaragua will run from January 25 – February 8 and registration has begun.
Potters and non-potters alike are welcome to join this hands-on experience where we’ll visit, learn from, and work with indigenous Nicaraguan potters. The group will travel by minibus to remote pottery villages and stay in rustic hotels or, occasionally, with villagers.
This is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and craft of this lovely country.
The fee is $1800 which includes all costs except airfare to and from Nicaragua and minor personal expenses. More information plus a registration package is available here.
I went to Nicaragua in late June to visit our artisans and meet with our in-country staff. It was an amazing time in an amazing, beautiful country traveling with and meeting wonderful people. The artists in every community continue to grow their craft and expand their markets. They also continue to appreciate and count on the help we provide and we continue helping the scattered communities network with each other.
We have hired a wheel-throwing expert (Carlos Humberto Silva Espinosa) from La Naranja to teach the potters of El Ojoche and El Colero to throw. We are helping the potters of Ducoale get clay from the nearby potters of La Maysute. And so it goes, as these craftspeople strive to improve their work, to gain exposure to larger markets, and to learn from one another. It was a privilege to see it with my own eyes. I hope you enjoy a few of the many pictures I took along the way!
After eight years of hard work, Peter Chartrand has stepped down from his post as US Director of Potters for Peace and we are happy to welcome Abby Silver, a potter from Boulder, Colorado, to the position.
Abby was a production potter for many years and now works on large public art pieces. She has travelled extensively and has worked as both an employee and a volunteer with several community organizations. She is also a long-time supporter of Potters for Peace. We are confident that her skills and energy will be valuable assets for our organization.
Peter Chartrand will continue his filter work with Potters for Peace but please direct all inquiries, both about filters and on other matters, to firstname.lastname@example.org and Abby will send them on to the appropriate Potters for Peace people.
At this time we would like to thank Peter for his hard work and dedication as the US “point person” for Potters for Peace and we look forward to working with him in future Ceramic Water Filter projects. Peter will remain a vibrant part of PfP in our filter program.
Abby’s full contact information is:
Potters for Peace
PO Box 2214
Boulder CO 80306
One of the groups we’ve given technical assistance to is the Magu Cooperativa in La Arada, Honduras near the border with El Salvador. They are keeping the Lenca tradition alive and well with their beautiful pieces using the traditional Lenca clay resist technique. They have grown in to a new studio and workshop. They employ women in the community to make and decorate pieces and have grown to the point that as of last week they were working to fill a 1,200 piece order. We’re proud of the work they produce and look forward to working with them in the future to help them implement some new design ideas they are working on.
Cooperativa San Expedicto is a pottery co-op of women making black pottery in the style of Mata Ortiz, Mexico with a beautiful, rich black luster surface. This is a new group we are working with in the Department of Jinotega. Recently we had a workshop for the women in design and throwing on the wheel. They are a delightful group of women to work with, very energized and with lots of ideas.
Finishing up his work in Ha-Mashamba, Limpopo, South Africa working with the Mokondini Women’s Potter in partnership with the University of Virginia and University of Venda in South Africa, Peter Chartrand sent on pictures of his work building a kiln for the group and working on clay/burn out material formulas for water filters. The women were great to work with!
At the Potters for Peace tables at NCECA 2012 in Seattle, board members and volunteers spent the weekend fundraising and exchanging ideas and information with the many people who visited us. This is always a good fundraising opportunity and to those of you who supported us by entering the raffle (for a ceramic water filter), buying a t-shirt or a piece of Nicaraguan jewellery, or making a donation, thanks.
It was great to make personal contact with our supporters and to spread the word (in person) about our work with Nicaraguan potters, our brigades and our filter projects. See you at NCECA 2013!
For those of you whose eyes lit up when we described our unforgettable brigades, check our website in September for the dates and application form for our 2013 brigade.