From the beginning days in Santa María Tlahuiltoltepec, in the heart of the Sierra Norte Mountains of Oaxaca, some of the first Mexican ancestors discovered lugar frío (the cold place or Tlahuiltoltepec) and the precious clay found in this area from which they could make dishes and other items to be used in their households.
One of the most recognized artists from this area is Silvia Martínez Díaz, who has maintained her lifestyle and traditions by continuing to make her pre-Hispanic pottery as well as art pieces representative of the period. In particular, she makes jugs with 3 asas (handles), which are made using a rollo technique - layers of clay are layed over each other until the desired height and final volume is achieved. This particular characteristic is a major selling point for Silvia because she is making very unique pottery using age-old techniques and has the mark of her personality and of the land the clay is obtained from near her village.
She began working with clay as a child of approximately 12 years of age, under the tutelage of her mother; however, after the basics were learned she is self-taught. Silvia divides her life between her work on the land and giving art classes during the drought seasons. She also teaches pottery making at the local school.
She began winning awards for her work at an early age: 1996 Galardón Presidencial del Premio Nacional de la Cerámica, San Pedro Tlaquepaque, Jalisco (first prize); 2003 Concurso Nacional de la Cerámica Tonallan she won 2nd place in traditional pottery. Fomento Cultural Banamex has purchased both these pieces for their exhibits. Silvia appears in their new book, "Great Masters of Oaxacan Folk Art."