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Last Saturday we went to a workshop on barro negro (black clay) with an artist from San Bartolo de Coyotepec. Incredibly, the method is pure pinch pot: building it up with one’s hands, without coils (for the most part), slabs, or pottery wheel. I really liked the vase I made, but the bottom is much too thick and has developed cracks that would break it right apart in the firing. So I am going to dissolve it back into clay and start over–now that I’ve documented what it looks like.

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Then, yesterday, we went to Burro Press and got a lesson in linocuts, called suelografía in Spanish, to my amusement–suelo means floor. Here’s the first proof of my first linocut, and the placa (what’s it called in English? plate?) below.

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There are two changes I’ll make now that I can see how it’s come out, and one change I wish I could make but can’t. I will make the sky and the area around the door more purely white, and I wish I could change the cross-hatching on the left-hand building (left-hand in the print, that is, not the plate). I wanted it to look lighter in color than the building to its right, but I think it is too busy. If I had it to do over again, I would use the same technique of vertical white lines, but make them denser.

And I will have it to do over again, because I’m taking a class in woodcut and linocut at the Casa de la Cultura Oaxaqueña starting in two weeks. (I won’t really re-do this piece, though. I have other plans.)

Joy & Munchkin made beautiful pieces in both media, and we’ll be picking up their fired barro negro later today.

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I’ve finished the building phase of two ceramics pieces, both coil built. Eventually they’ll be fired and ready for the next phase.

Vase with roots (approx 10″ high, 4″ at widest point):

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Walls of Oaxaca (approx. 6″ high, 10″ wide):

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This is a common sight in Oaxaca. A wall with several layers exposed: paint, stucco, brick, stone, adobe. It’s like a telescope that looks into the past. It sees the history of that building, and also the earth of which it was built.

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The adobe in particular is fascinating, being made in part of straw that grew during the season when it was built, and pebbles that were made by the earth of that place millions of years before.

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Today we were back in the ceramics studio–we get there about once a week–and I finished the basic shaping of a coil-built bowl that is going to pay homage to these walls. When I’d done that, I had about half an hour to begin carving the outside of the bowl. It will have the textures of brick, mortar, stone, adobe–all these inhabitants of Oaxaca that are never out of sight for more than a block or two.

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I was so tired during the afternoon that I told Joy and Munchkin to go to the studio without me. I would stay and sleep, I said. But I got a breath of second wind and decided to go along. I was very glad I did. Working on the clay woke me up.

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