For six generations, creating pottery has been the focus of the lives of the Jimón family of Tonalá one of whom is Fernando Jimon Melchor.
Fernando is 35 years old and has been working with clay for 22 years. He is married with four children - he hopes at least one will carry on his tradition. Fernando's father, Fernando Jimon Barba, taught his craft to various members of the family where it has been practiced for over 6 generations - the longest continuous legacy of potters in the Tonalá area.
Although Fernando began making miniature clay pots, he prefers making very large pieces. He showed me a huge pitcher at least 3 feet tall that will be entered in the 2007 Premio Nacional de Ceramica where in 2006 he won First Place with his entry. Next to the huge pitcher, he placed an identical replica 1/2" tall.
His talent is very evident in the beautiful traditional and historical designs he paints on his pottery.
The clay used for Fernando's pots comes from the hills near Tonalá. Deposits of black, white and red clay with varying proportions of silica are extracted from the earth for use by the potters who live in the area. He pays a fee to extract great chunks of clay from this area. Once home, the chunks are broken up, ground into a powder and then sifted to removed impurities. Next water is added and the clay begins to "ferment" covered with plastic and set aside for several months.
Smoothed with stones after drying, a slip of pigment is applied to seal the pores of the clay as well as provide a background color. The paints are made by mixing clays and adding earth pigments.
After the slip has dried and the paints are mixed, the decoration (palmeado) is ready to begin. With an ensemble of brushes, some of animal hair, he begins with great skill painting the designs he is so well known for. The final burnishing is done with tallow. The process takes a very long time to ensure the quality of the finished piece. Then it is fired once in an open kiln.