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Manuel David Reyes Ramirez and Maricela Gomez Lopez

Love and livelihood sculpted in clay

Manuel David Reyes Ramirez and Maricela Gomez Lopez met in Cuernavaca where Manuel was working for the artist Juan Soriano and Maricela was a cook in the home of an established art collector. In 2003 they returned to their native Mixtec area in the state of Oaxaca, which has a history of ceramics dating back at least 2000 years. Inspired by both pre-Hispanic symbols and contemporary clay practices they have created their own style of pottery. In learning the craft, they met Adelita Reyes, an 80-year-old potter who showed them where to dig for clay and how to use natural pigments.

Manuel and Maricela harvest clay around Oaxaca. It is prepared by hand as are their slip colors, which are derived from local natural pigments. “Because everything we make is by hand our most important tool is our hands,” explain the artists. Other tools, including the spine of a maguey plant, a worn-out plastic credit card, and pieces of quartz are used to achieve surface textures. The couple’s sculptures often feature human faces, animals, and Mixtec iconography in their consideration of love, friendship, music, and history. 

As neither artist learned their craft from their parents, they decided to pass their knowledge on to indigenous youth in their community, offering classes and organizing events for students to display and sell their work. They say their own children are particularly talented ceramicists. “Clay has become our love and livelihood,” they say. Both Manuel and Maricela’s work is on display in their community as well as at Mano Mágica in Oaxaca and the Museum of Arte Popular in Mexico City.