Quite a few of the businesses we work with are small, family owned ones. Skills are passed down through generations and sometimes altered slightly so they’re able to add their own personal touch to their products. This week, the shop we’d like to highlight is Artesanias Antares in Tonalá. We were able to sit down with Minerva Olea Pérez, wife to the owner and main craftsman Sergio Covarrubias Gabriel, to learn more about the intricacies of their family’s pottery business.
Pottery in Mexico
From the very beginning, Artesanias Antares was a family initiative. Mrs. Minerva's father was the one who taught Mr. Sergio, who soon after began to produce pottery. But in addition to that, Mr. Sergio had already learned the petatillo technique with his own family.
The petatillo technique is believed to be first created in the mid 1800s in Tonalá, Jalisco. This type of pottery is distinguished by having an off white or light yellow background filled with crosshatching. That crosshatching looks like a woven palm mat, also called a petate. The most common images painted over that crosshatching are plants and animals.
This technique requires fine white clay to be fired at a very high temperature to yield a product that has a similar finish to porcelain. The smooth surface allows for very complex and intricate designs to be painted.
Mrs. Minerva says that it all started in 1998, “We opened the premises where we continue to market the pieces to this day.” Their daughter, Blanca Esthela Covarrubias Olea helps run the business while their two sons, Juan Pablo Covarrubias Olea and Alejandro Covarrubias Olea help manufacture the products.
The global pandemic has impacted many, including business owners around the world. Sergio and Minerva had to close their store from the end of March 2020 to the beginning of August of that same year; however, they continue to work in the workshop.
Thankfully, as time goes on and things return to somewhat normal, it’s back to business as usual for the shop.
When it comes to creating, there are always so many things to pull inspiration from. Whether it’s from your culture, family, surroundings or something else entirely. When asked where Sergio gets his inspiration from, Mrs. Minerva shares that “It is a personal taste. Sergio really likes to create; he is always experimenting”. Through experimenting, he’s made quite a few of our favourites, including their best seller – the cups and saucers. So what does it take for them to make a piece of pottery? Well, the depends on what they’re making but here’s a breakdown of the general steps.
Once all the materials are gathered they have to decide which type of paste to use. Liquid paste is used with a molding and solid paste is stepped on.
After choosing which one they’re going to do, they make the paste and create the piece.
The waste material on the edges of the product, also referred to as the ‘burr’, is then removed.
It’s then polished and smoothed.
The product then sits to dry before it’s boiled. This requires it being subjected to a temperature of 900 °C for 10 or 12 hours.
The product is them enamelled and ready for a second burning
It’s subjected to a temperature of 1260 °C for 10 or 15 hours
After that they remove the piece from the oven to cool down.
With all of the effort that goes into making each piece, we asked Mrs. Minerva if there was anything she’d like to let her customers know. She said “I would like these people to know the process so that they know the investment in terms of time and effort behind each product, and so that they do not want to be ‘haggling’”. Unlike mass produced products, these are carefully crafted. Mrs. Minerva expressed that it brings her happiness to see the products come out of the ovens so well and that their customers appreciate the work and effort. We’re just as happy to be able to share their beautiful pieces with you!
$26,00These unique pottery pieces are handcrafted using the petatillo technique, which has been passed down through generations in Mexico. These cups will bring a modern, textured flair to your dining experience, and are sure to become your go-to cups for any occasion!
$36,00The technique requires fine white clay to be fired at high temperatures, which results in the products having a similar finish to porcelain, allowing for intricate and complex designs to be painted overtop.