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Black ClayBlack Clay of San Bartolo Coyotepec

Black Clay, or "Barro Negro" is a traditional technique used in Oaxaca, Mexico for the production of pottery. Black clay pottery is distinguished by its black-silvery appearance and its crystal-like sound. Oaxacan black clay pottery is a traditional, indigenous, Zapotec art form principally practiced in Coyotepec, a village about twelve kilometers southeast of the town of Oaxaca. It is mostly decorative because it will not hold water unless it is double cooked and then it becomes grayish in color.

Making Black Clay Pottery

The raw clay is mined from a vein that the artisans say is chemically unique but at current rates of exploitation this vein may be exhausted in about fifty years. The prepared clay is a smooth, almost greasy material, very plastic and tan in color. The pottery is thrown in a traditional Zapotec method, a pair of spherical, bowl-shaped plates, one balanced on the other without a pivot. The bowl or jar is dried in the sun and burnished with a stone or shard. The pottery is embellished with intricate patterns, burnished smooth, then fired in a reducing atmosphere until the correct temperature is reached when normal, oxygen-containing air is admitted for a critical period of about five minutes. This produces the black coloration. Precise temperature and time definition is difficult because this process is an intuitive one, dependent on the skill of the Zapotec potters.

Molding the Black Clay Pottery Black Clay Pottery Oaxaca Black Clay
Molding The Clay Hand Turning the Shape Ready for Glazing

Black clay pottery on exhibit

The Museum of Popular Art of the State of Oaxaca has an exhibit featuring archeological black clay pottery of the artisans of San Barolo Coyotepec. The exhibit details the development of this popular art from the beginnings of Monte Alban to present day.

 

 

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