It runs in the Family

 Jose Arriola sits in the corner of a small concrete room without any windows, brimming full of bright colors.  Surrounded by a dozen scattered brushes and acrylic paint pots, Jose delicately paints the remaining touches on a ceramic star destined to decorate someone’s home.


Jose is a natural artisan.  He is a ceramist, not only by trade, but also from tradition.  He comes from a long line of artisans and learned the art of ceramics when he was a young boy.  His father was a master carver and on his mother’s side, five generations have been dedicated to the beautiful craft of ceramic arts.


 “I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be creative in my mother’s workshop.  I learned how to develop my artistic abilities,” he says as he molds wet clay into the shape of angel wings. 

 Jose has come a long way since the days he was first experimenting with ceramic clay.  He has his own workshop with three employees.  “It’s hard for young people to find gainful employment because of the bad economy, so I am glad that I am able to provide work in my community.”

 Jose creates ceramic sculptures, such as nativity scenes, vibrant multi-colored stars and angels that he sells in his shop in the local artisan market in Antigua.  He is thankful for the genuine interest people has in his art, “I take a lot of pride in making each piece.  It’s nice to see when people enjoy them.” 


He finds his creative inspiration from his country, the exhilarating city life, culture and colors of Guatemala.  “I consider it a privilege to have been born in Guatemala: our extensive society, the designs on our traditional costumes, the flora and fauna…my favorite thing to do is to create new designs, designs that are proof of the richness of my culture.”


Working with ceramics has brought Jose many beautiful things, from learning a craft handed down to him from his family to providing for his four children. His two children are both attending the local university and getting ready to start their own lives. “I wish for all of my children to become independent people with a career of their choice.” Whether they decide to follow in his footsteps or not, he is certain that his love for the ceramic arts will live on and will continue to inspire others.

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Ceramic Artisan from Antigua | Journalism, Photography and Multimedia | Heidi de Marco
7 years ago

[…] Novica, a National Geographic partner, sent me on assignment to Guatemala to document the lives of artisans in the region. Jose Arriola was one of the first artisans I interviewed during my trip. You can view the original post on Novica’s website. […]