Intrepid PFP volunteer Elinor Maroney is in the home stretch of her year working with Nicaraguan potters. The following is excerpted from her full blog post at http://www.nicaragua-community.com/potter-writes/ .
When I arrived at the studio [in La Maysuta] Don Domingo was not there, but the three other potters were….We went up the hill and down the other side to Domingo’s house about 4:00pm and sat and tried to talk till dinner at 7:00pm. They always seem to suspect me and don’t really understand what I can share with them since I can’t talk to them much in Spanish. I know lots of words – and all the words that relate to clay! – but a conversation is very difficult because I can’t hear the words and process them fast enough. Domingo began to write questions for me and that does help.
Don Domingo’s house
It took the kids a few days to warm up to this old lady who can’t talk to them. We did a pottery class this morning in the studio when none of the other potters was around. Probably used quite a bit of their precious hand processed clay, but had a good time – and it broke the ice.
Monday, October 21 already! [Son] Ricardo finally made two small houses in one morning! His usual work is a detailed “castle” with tile roof and many doors and windows – at least three stories tall – and he works on one piece for a full day. His tile roofs are to die for! He uses an umbrella stay sharpened in a certain way and has developed a technique to make the tiles look real – but in miniature. I brought him pictures of houses and churches so he would have a reference. I am so glad he is making smaller pieces. There is no way he can be paid for the time it takes to make one of his creations. And they are so fragile it is hard to transport them.
Ricardo’s delicate castle – unfired
Ricardo’s charming smaller houses – unfired
We have added a new low fire technique – Obvara Raku Firing. I found it on the Ceramic Arts Daily web site. A pottery teacher in Texas has discovered an ancient European technique where the red hot pot is dipped in a solution of flour, sugar, yeast and water to make a piece look antique. It was developed to seal the pots so they are more water resistant. It seems to be the newest American raku technique….Finally the day of the firing arrived! We filled an old barrel with already fired pieces adding sawdust and other organic materials, etc. Then we cleaned out an old bread oven kiln so we could pull pieces out and put them into sawdust, the flour/sugar/yeast mixture or touch them with horsehair or feathers.
Pablo helps take hot pots from the flaming kiln.
The furiously burning kiln
Michelle Zucker, a student at Penn State, and Emily Saunders, a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, have won US$10,000 and up to US$25,000 of in-kind staff time to support implementation of a project in India that will reactivate an abandoned factory as a water filter factory and a start-up community factory, providing migrant workers with access to clean water, self-grown food and native materials for building shelters. Michelle and Emily worked closely with Potters for Peace in preparing their contest entry and they will be collaborating with us on the implementation of this project.
The contest was sponsored by AECOM, a company that works to create, enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments.
Help us do more of this kind of work by donating to our CLEAN WATER FOR ALL CAMPAIGN: https://fundly.com/clean-water-for-all.
We’re almost 1/4 of the way to our goal of raising $10,000!
Please donate today! Any donation, small or large, will help us reach our goal. Here’s the link: https://fundly.com/clean-water-for-all
We’ve just launched a special fundraising campaign that we’re calling CLEAN WATER FOR ALL and we hope that everyone out there will help us spread the word.
Funds from this campaign will go toward establishing more filter factories throughout the world and sending a delegate to the 2015 World Water Forum in Korea so that we can raise the profile of the mighty Ceramic Water Filter.
To donate follow this link: https://fundly.com/clean-water-for-all.
OR you can use the DONATE button on the right and include the note “Clean Water for All.”
OR you can send us an old-fashioned check and we’ll add it to our total. Checks should be made payable to Potters for Peace and mailed to:
Abby Silver, US Director,
PO Box 2214, Boulder CO
Please spread the word about our campaign to take over the world, one water filter at a time!
PFP filter specialist Mike Stubna will be conducting a filter making demo at The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, in conjunction with an exhibition at Moore College that features the filter.
FREE WORKSHOP: August 1, 5pm – 8pm http://www.theclaystudio.org/participate/events.php?id=513
EXHIBITION: Interchange at Moore College of Art & Design Goldie Paley Gallery June 14 – August 23, 2014 http://moore.edu/the-galleries-at-moore/exhibitions/current-exhibitions
PFP Exhibition at Moore College
As regular readers will know, a long-time member of Potters for Peace, and our previous US Director, Peter Chartrand, has encountered some health issues, but things are looking up. Here’s what Peter wrote recently: “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.
Sculpture of Ron Rivera.
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.
Pre-Columbian pot, Mi Museo, Granada
Funerary pots. Mi Museo, Granada
Pre-Columbian Museum of Condega
NCECA 2014 is now history! Thanks to all who stopped by our booth and supported us in any way. Special thanks goes out to the following generous clay suppliers, who collectively donated over $1200 worth of tools and supplies for our Nicaraguan communities:
Cedar Height Clay – Resco
Ceramics: Art and Perception
Chinese Clay Art Corp.
Dirty Girls Pottery Tools
Mecca Pottery Tools
Peter Pugger Mfg., Inc.
Publishing House New Ceramics
Royal and Langnickel Brush Mfg.
U.S. Pigment Corp.
Xiem Studio Tools
Apologies if we have neglected anyone. You all rock!
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.
Our home for a night.
Isidro (he throws) and Consuelo (she decorates) trying out a technique one of us showed them. I’ve never met a potter who doesn’t enjoy seeing a new trick.
Where ever we went, the kids picked up clay and joined us. They are not separated from adults as they so often are in the US.
Tia is perhaps the most remarkable person we met. Deaf since birth, she communicates with enthusiasm through gestures and vocalizations. She’s a potter, but prefers taking the family’s work to market to sell. The rest of the family prefers potting to selling, so they leave the market to her. Here she prepares lunch for us. The kitchen is tiny, with a small table and wood stove. Nevertheless, they fed 10 of us bountifully. And they’re using a lot of their own pottery.
Santa Rosa’s pottery. The pot with the green leaves came home with me.
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.”
A mile of hiking uphill. Their road washed out a couple of years ago
The view from their workshop. They’re bringing coffee to drink in their own pitcher and mugs.
I’ve been there twice and have seen almost no men. The women say they don’t need them. They also say they are away working in the cities.
Their work is the surprise. They’ll make whatever they see. Visitors bring them magazines; they copy what’s in them. Some work is done on the wheel. Much is hand-build. The colorants come from different local clays. The pieces are burnished, not glazed.
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.
Once-fired pots waiting to be decorated
Using a feather to apply a resist of clay mixed with ashes
Decorated pieces before they’re fired
Smoking in the kiln. The kiln is open on two sides. Pots can be taken in and out from either side.
This is how the kiln is unloaded
After this firing, the resist (ash+clay) is washed off. The resist part stays red; the rest turns darker from exposure to smoke.
Hearty soup with lots of vegetables is a typical (and delicious) Nicaraguan meal. The pots are very low fired, but can hold liquids because they’re burnished. It’s almost worth a trip to Nicaragua to eat a meal like this. . . home cooked food in home cooked pottery.
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.
Comales in the kiln
Benita makes a comale
Making tortillas in the comale
In 1997 we sent Pete Seeger a fundraising letter and he wrote back to us with some sage advice that we pull out from time to time when the going gets tough. Thanks for your support, Pete. We’ll miss you, for your terrific music and for so much more.
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.
Board member Haddie Hadachek of Black Bear Pottery in Brainerd, Minnesota, talks about Potters for Peace on her local TV news show. Click through on the title above to watch this 3-minute video.
El Colero collective works on an order of 80 chicken water jars.
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!
Unloading a kiln at Ducuale Grande.
The potters of El Ojoche get a throwing lesson.
The new shop at Las Curenas.
Work of the Loma Panda potters.
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
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!
Board members and volunteers staff our tables at NCECA 2012.
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.
Ann Schunior, one of the people who was part of our 2012 Brigade, has had an excellent article about Potters for Peace published in Hand/Eye magazine. The article describes our work with subsistence potters and is accompanied by a mini-slideshow.
Read the article and see the slideshow here.