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José García Antonio
Ceramicist - Blind but sees through his hands!

Endowed with a singular talent as a child, José Antonio Garcia made ceramic horses and giraffes, surprising his family and friends with his extraordinary ability to handle barro (clay). He never had a teacher and at the age of seven discovered he had an incredible ability to work with clay. He acknowledges that his greatest inspiration was bringing sirenas (mermaids) to life — the beauty of women merged with a creature from nature has always fascinated José.

“It would seem that the hearts of the potters of Oaxaca are made of clay.” Their emotions, intuitions, joys, fears and fantasies flow through their bloodstream until arriving at the hands which knead the clay and, as if by magic, transform it into exquisite ceramic sculptures.” (“The Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art.”)

José Antonio García was born on August 10, 1947. He is originally from San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Ocotlán, Oaxaca. He loves his work and also the beauty of Oaxaca, its people and especially his beautiful wife. He often sculpts his wife in pigtails and her rebozo (shawl). José says, "The woman has always been beautiful. She brings beauty to everything." So, when you purchase one of his figures depicting her, you are taking away a bit of the beauty of the maestro's wife.

El maestro José García has a vision problem and is almost blind. One would think that the art of this clever, humble man would be lost to the world. Not so. Jose still continues working in clay, the memory of what he wishes to create expelled from his hands into the clay. He faces his inevitable blindness with a mature attitude and continues to devote all his time to creating with his hands. He sees through his fingers. " The truth," he says, "is that I love my work and cannot give it up."

His village, San Antonino, near Ocotlán, is the cradle of notable artisans from different areas of folk art. José’s area of expertise is siempreviva, a technique of floral decoration. He began many years ago by making incense burners, tinged by numerous figures of spirits for Day of the Dead festivities, but his most innovate creation is his large-scale mermaids and other monumental figures. For the traditional market, he makes all types of flowerpots, molded and unmolded, all finished in natural colors. For ceremonial day, he might create candlesticks or skeletal characters. During the Christmas season he models a number of toys.

Don José works with a special clay obtained in the area. He prepares it following the timeless tradition of his predecessors, grinding it into a fine powder and then sifting it several times through a sieve. When clean and free of impurities, he moistens the clay, covers it with plastic and places it in a dry place to “rest.” He later take out small quantities needed for the piece he is working on, kneading it and adding more water until the clay is the proper consistency. For some of his large-format pieces, don José combines a number of techniques such as molding, modeling, graffito (etching) and pastillaje (appliqué).

The last technique at which he is an expert, consists of adding hand-modeled decorative elements such as flowers to the finished pieces. He surrounds his famous mermaids with dense foliage and then adds a sun, moon, stars and other forms linked to the clay piece by wire. The burnished us done with a smooth stone, a piece of cloth or a corncob, all of which must be kept constantly wet. After the burnishing, the pieces are left to dry slowly in the shad and later moved into the sun until al the moisture has left. They are fired in a kiln for several hours and then left inside until completely cooled.

José's wife, Santa Teresita Mendoza Reyna Sanchez, was born in 1961 in the town of San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Ocotlán, Oaxaca. She and Jose were married in 1987 when she began to learn began to learn how deep her husband's love was for the figures and sirenas (mermaids) he modeled out of clay. Their faces depicted faces of the region of Tehuana, Trique, the coastal region, Tuxtepec, Mixtec and other areas of Oaxaca. She has worked alongside her husband and is filled with joy that their children are carrying on his tradition in ceramics.

Contact Information:
Please contact the artist directly if you wish to speak with him or purchase his art.

951 539 6473 or 951 219 4485 (cell)

If you are having problems contacting the artist, you can contact Marianne Carlson at 376 765 7485 or email mariannecarlson@gmail.com, however, Marianne does NOT sell the artist's work.


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