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mexican workshop of eric mindling

updated wed 2 sep 98


Dick Williams on tue 1 sep 98

After conquering all of Mexico Hernando Cortez decided in 1540 to build his
palace in Oaxaca. If you go you will want to build your own castle in this
"Jewel in the Crown" of Mexico also. Eric Mindling must have been conquered
by the mystique of this place eight years ago when he first stumbled into the
valley with its ideal climate and friendly people.This lanky Yankee with the
sombrero has become an amigo of all the potters in the little villages tucked
away in the mountains surronding the city of Oaxaca. It is as if he had not
only dug up some 4,ooo year old pottery but by some magic also the very
potters themselves still making their pots in the same old ways, using nothing
but their bare hands with bits of gourd or corn cobs and stone to create them
out of clay, water and fire.It really is mind-boggling to see real flesh and
blood people making these museum pieces.

After reading a few of Eric's emails on CLAYART I flew down this January to
attend his second work shop and became one of his alumni and survivors.. I had
had some exciting moments trying to make the john in time when I came down
with Montazuma's revenge on my first trip to Mexico fifty years ago but I was
really surprised under Eric's direction I had not one queasy moment. It is a
matter of not drinking anything but bottled water and eating any fruits or
vegetables that are not cooked or pealed.

It was a workshop that I shall never forget.I was the only man in a group of
six women and enjoyed every minute of it. For two nights we were wined and
dined in Oaxaca, a magnificient city filled with colonial buildings,
cathedrals, fascinating shops and museums. The people were very friendly and
even understood my schoolboy Spanish..

Then for four days we lived in the tiny village of San Marco in a nice clean
and well equipped hostel.Our food was provided by Eric's assistant,a charming
young lady who prepared such delicious and healthy food that we stayed happy
and well..Our teachers were three indian ladies, Dorotha, Alberta and Macrina
who are well known for their fine pottery. We dug the clay, purified it and
combined it with the right amount of sand as grog. When it well kneaded we
were taught how to shape the clay into pots without a wheel using only pieces
of gourds and corn cobs. After burnishing and drying,the climax of the
workshop was the firing in an open fire protected only with shards. After an
hour wooden poles were used to pull the pots out of the embers and what pots
they were!

We also traveled in Eric's van through wild mountain roads to other pottery
villages, San Bartolo Coyotepec and Santa Maria Atzompa where very different
types of pottery were produced.

Although the conditions in the small village of San Martco were a bit
primitive and the pace was tiring for an old man I never had any stomach
problems and enjoyed every moment of the whole workshop except maybe digging
the clay, but I let the women do most of that..Maybe it was because
potters as a group are the easiest people to get along with and Eric oure
nobel leader is the type of person you immediately feel you have known all
your life.

I am a retired chemist fast approaching 80 and a member of the Orange Street
Pottery in Wilmington NC ( home of Bertha, Fran and Bonnie).We have well known
potters such as Hiroshi Sueyoshi and Diana Wilde-Ramsing to help us with our
problems when the going gets tough.I would be more than happy to answer any
questions about Eric's workshop that I attended in Mexico.

Dick Williams
270 Dallas Dr.
(910) 392-6676