Another stop on our Oaxaca trip was to the studio of Josephina Aguilar and her family in the small town of Ocotlan. The madre sat near the front gate and smiled as we entered but stayed seated through the demonstration of hand building by her son. Shelves on every wall and tables were filled with hundreds of brightly colored figures.
They dig their own clay, refine it, soak it and let it dry to the correct consistency then wedge or knead the clay to remove any air pockets. Then the building of hollow figures begins. The body is a slab rolled to meet itself, the head is also a small slab. Details of the mouth, nose and ears are created with a simple tool made from a cactus. Fine coils are rolled for the hair and carefully braided in the traditional hairstyle of the region. Some of Josephina’s figures are called market ladies, because they represent the people she sees in the market carrying food, children or animals in their arms or on their heads.
The figures are allowed to dry slowly and then are fired for seven hours in a kiln to harden the clay. At this point the painting begins with acrylic colors. Bright, contrasting colors are applied to the figures by women of the family. I brought home a couple of these figures.