The Family Business

Pottery can be traced back to almost every ancient civilization throughout history. It has been an important art form and useful tool for more than 7,000 years. In México, pottery has been used since pre-Columbian times.

In the 1950s, Oaxacan potter Doña Rosa invented a process for making barro negro, or black pottery. Today, this type of pottery is famous around the world for its extreme shine.

The process of making black pottery takes about three weeks. First, wet clay is shaped. I’ve only seen potters use a spinning wheel to help give shape to the clay. At Doña Rosa’s studio they don’t use a wheel. Instead, two plates are set back-to-back and balance atop one another. The clay mound is put on the top plate and spun by hand.

Once the pottery-makers shape the vase or pitcher, the surface is smoothed out and sent to the kiln for baking. Of course, I couldn’t wait three weeks for the full process, so I visited the shop to check out hundreds of shiny, black clay items ready to be purchased.