"I was born in Jalisco; like my parents and grandparents, I am a ceramist. From the first years of my life I remember myself with clay in my hands. I learned this trade from my maternal grandparents,...
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Angel Ortiz Gabriel
"I was born in Jalisco; like my parents and grandparents, I am a ceramist. From the first years of my life I remember myself with clay in my hands. I learned this trade from my maternal grandparents, just as I have taught my children and hope they will teach theirs, so this tradition is not lost.
"My first tasks came at about eight years old. I was the one who painted the names of the people on little mugs. Some time afterward I was put in charge of drawing ornamental borders and other designs. When I turned twelve, I would go from my neighborhood to the neighborhood of the bruñidores
(those who work with the "burnished" clay technique) so I could learn. I began little by little, with humility and affection, always with a desire to learn, and this has permitted me to win the National Ceramics Prize on four occasions. Now I teach my children – three girls and a boy – the secrets of burnished clay. My son Angel won a national first prize at the age of 16."
Talking with don
Angel Ortiz Gabriel is a delight. The conversation flows in such a way that he transports us to wonderful worlds. The stories of his village, the magic of the nahual
told by don Angel take on new dimensions. While he speaks, he does not stop painting, creating patterns with the finest of brushes made from rabbit fur or cat hair.
He tells us, "The nahual is the other self, the animal we first see when we are born. It is our protector, our soul here in the village. I think that the nahual is a cat, a fantastic cat. My works reflect this mystery; as I paint I feel my mind guide my hand and the designs flow by themselves. Sometimes I think about what I am going to paint, but generally they form themselves – when I sit down to work I become inspired."
Ortiz first molds an object of clay and allows it to dry for several days before rubbing it to a burnished sheen with a stone, thus achieving the characteristic bruñido
finish. The deep, rich color comes from mineral paints derived from different kinds of earth. Finally, the piece is fired.
Family life is intense. Surrounded by his children, Ortiz devotes long hours to crafting his beautiful pieces. "We fervently hope that the tradition of creating burnished clay is never lost," he confides.