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Black Clay History - CEMCUI

Black Clay History

Black clay is one of the most rigorous and popular pottery techniques in Mexico. It is made mainly in the state of Oaxaca, more specifically in the municipalities of San Bartolo Coyotepec and Santa María Atzompa.

The creation of black clay goes back to B.C. and vestiges have been found in the Zapotec and Mixtec cultures of the central valley, but the oldest are from the times of Monte Alban (500 BC), these were used as a better way to transport liquids.

It wasn't until the 20th century that black clay was transformed into something more artistic with brilliant cuts and finishes. 

However, it is one of the most rigorous pottery techniques so the entire process takes around 20 days for each of the pieces to be ready.

Its process begins with soaking the clay and letting it settle, in order to remove any impurities.

When ready, an artisan kneads it until it is smooth and shapes each of the pieces, finishing by letting them dry in sunlight for 4 days or until there are no stains on the clay.

Depending on whether the piece has cuts, the artisans must be careful and detail-oriented in each of the pieces. The shine is obtained by polishing the pieces with materials such as quartz crystals and letting them dry for additional days.

Finally, it is placed in a traditional oven, a hole in the ground with firewood at about 1292°F or 1472°F for an entire day, thus obtaining its characteristic black color.

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