"My town inspires me and the people there are wonderful… I feel happy to create my sculptures and to perpetuate my cultural heritage, my deep roots in the place where I was born."
"Strength and the growth come only through effort and continuous struggle. I'm Victor Sullon Yarleque. I was born in 1987 in the beautiful town of Chulucanas in northern Peru.
"It's a warm, friendly place, known for its ceramists and the quality of its clay. Here, we've inherited the pre-Inca tradition, which I use in my work, and the beliefs and customs of my town.
"Our techniques, high quality, beauty and designs have resulted in the prestige of Chulucanas ceramics around the world. What stands out in our work is its "negative decoration," in which we cover the areas we want to stay white; pieces take on color during the firing process.
"My town has inherited the skills of the pre-Hispanic Vicus culture who were an example of persistent, attentive effort, the work ethic and a collective spirit.
"I consider myself a responsible man, committed to anything I set out to do. I'm always thinking about innovating and creating new designs that can achieve a visual and cultural impact at the same time.
"It all started when I was a young boy. I'm the oldest of five children and we have a wonderful family. Along with taking care of us and looking after the home, my parents also had their activities in town. After school, I'd go home and take care of my siblings and I also visited an uncle who had a small ceramics workshop.
"When I look back on my childhood, the memories that immediately come to mind are of watching my uncle preparing the clay and shaping it with the simple tools he used. He gave life to beautiful designs and I've been in love with Chulucanas pottery ever since.
"We work with white clay, often incised with parallel lines. The sculptures are burnished with a stone before the motifs are drawn by hand. The white areas are covered with slip before the piece is high fired in a kiln with mango leaves. This reduces the oxygen inside and the smoke creates the smooth black or brown tones. The slip is removed to reveal the clay's natural color, the figurine is polished and it receives a protective coat of wax.
"I wanted to learn this technique with such a significant history for Peru and I was so impressed that, by the time I was eight, I'd begun crafting my own figurines. My uncle was a great inspiration to me and he was my first teacher while I studied in the afternoon and evenings. He took the time to help me perfect my technique.
"When I was in school, I was always drawn to the arts. I enjoyed drawing and painting, and won contests organized by the school. That was a hint of what I'd be doing for the rest of my days. I was always enthusiastic about the idea of working in ceramics full time.
"My parents taught me to fight for my dreams and to follow them no matter the cost. To never give up and to persist despite the circumstances. We went through some tough times, especially financially. There were periods when sales dropped and my father's business went bankrupt. He worked at something completely different but, at the time, I was studying techniques, learning to use tools to create my sculptures. I was able to acquire a certain mastery and develop my abilities for this art when his business failed. I suggested we work together in Chulucanas ceramics. We'd work as a team and, together, we'd get ahead.
"I began teaching my parents day and night to do all the things I'd learned. And with a lot of patience, effort and good humor, we were able to get back on our feet, improving our designs and crafting new tools.
"Another challenge we faced was due to the storms and floods when rivers overflowed their banks due to intense rain that affected northern Peru. But little by little, with hope and faith, we are trying to recover.
"I was always an enterprising man with a strong desire to get ahead, together with my family. They are my most important motive and give me the encouragement needed to continue on this long road.
"My town inspires me and the people here are wonderful. To feel the warmth of our neighbors who live surrounded by nature and animals living free… how could I live without it? Day by day, I feel happy to create my sculptures and to perpetuate my cultural heritage, my deep roots in the place where I was born.
"I dream of sharing my art with the world, of visiting international craft shows and exhibitions. I want my ancestral art to reach more people and cross borders without limits of time and space. I look forward to a great future for my family and myself."