Barro Negro (Black) Ceramics
Miguel Fabian Pedro was born August 28, 1951, in San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca. Village Crafts by tradition, as the son and grandson of artisans. His parents, Rufino Fabian Pedro Garcia and Maria Ortiz, taught Pedro his craft. He is the fifth generation of barro negro ceramicists in his family.
A master craftsman, Miguel works in pieces ranging from 20 to 135 cm tall. His work is unique and inspired by the Mesoamerican cultures of the Mixtec and Zapotec peoples, their beliefs, designs and techniques.
Miguel has won local and national competitions and awards, and his innovative style has taken his family's legacy into a new era of barro negro pottery.
The Fabians experiment with this rare black pottery, which has been made in San Bartolo Coyotepec for hundreds of years. Now Omar, Miguel's young son, is winning awards for his lattice-like cut-out work.
It takes up to eight days to make each pot. The clay they use is free from a natural source 4 km away, but only men are allowed to collect it because (as the rumors go) women bring bad luck and the clay will have stones in it.
San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca has produced pottery for centuries. Pottery artifacts unearthed in many of Oaxaca's archaeological sites have been traced to the clay found only in this area. The earthenware vessels were once used to transport mescal from hillside farms into the communities for sale. The containers held about 3 gallons each and were lashed together and slung over the backs of burros for the journey. With the advent of plastic jugs, the use of the heavy pottery was abandoned. The potters of Coyotepec began to search for new applications of their pottery skills.
Doña Rosa, a legend in the pottery world (she died in 1980), came up with a method for making decorative black pottery from the local clay. Her work has received numerous awards and is included in collections worldwide including those of Rockefeller and the Smithsonian.
The technique she developed to give the black pottery its trademark sheen is the burnishing of the pot with quartz. No glazes are used. The potters of Coyotepec continue to use their traditional method of turning pots without a wheel. The technique uses two concave clay plates, one upside down supporting the other. This method is of pre-Hispanic inheritance, the pieces are molded on this device. The entire process to develop a finished piece takes 20 to 30 days and goes from molding to decoration, to slow drying in closed rooms, polishing with a quartz stone and finally to baking where the pieces acquire their notable black color. Although Doña Rosa attempted to keep her technique a secret, eventually word got out. The pottery is decorative only and should not be used for cooking or serving.