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Fire and Clay: The Art of Oaxacan Pottery
From the author, Eric Mindling:
"This book is an homage to the wisdom of the ancestral indigenous potters throughout the wildly diverse state of Oaxaca, Mexico. It is a pioneering work, for most of the 70 villages mentioned in this book were completely unknown beyond their local trade networks before this book was published.
It is also my opus magnus. I may write other books, they may be wonderful, but this is the book I was born to write. I spent the decade of my 20’s sleuthing out every village in Oaxaca I could find that makes pottery. From that era the book arose. The book also takes a deep, insightful and sensitive look at how the pottery is made and the impressive ancient wisdom that goes into every aspect of its creation, from functionality to environmental equilibrium.
The book highlights a diversity of ways of forming, finishing and firing pottery native to this land. It looks at clay harvesting, stone burnishing, the use of earth pigments and rare processes of tannin dying pottery. There is a photo gallery that shares the fantastic variety of vessels made throughout Oaxaca and the back of the book contains a village by village guide as well as a map for those of you inclined to travel to any of these places. This detail I felt was especially important to include. For though each of these villages has been able to maintain its pottery tradition for the last thousand to three thousand years. The old ways are no match for the world of industry and plastic. Many of these pottery ways are on the verge of disappearing. To visit, to purchase, to publicize, to praise makes a difference.
Not only is the book an encyclopedia of Oaxacan pottery, which is representative of the indigenous pottery of the Americas in general. It is also an exploration of the immense value of the wisdom carried in traditional human knowledge. In my mind the most significant chapter in the book is Chapter 3. It is called Function. Planet, Village, Kitchen, and takes a deep and thoughtful look at how this pottery, this craft, this approach to borrowing from the earth to meet our needs has evolved to function in equilibrium with all that surrounds it. This includes vessels being adapted to function well in the conditions of a rural kitchen, a trade created to function well in the balanced and multifaceted life of the pottery and a process that approaches the planet with gentleness and care. As such, this pottery trade has existed in community after community for hundreds of generations. This is something we can actually call sustainable."
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