Last week I attended a black clay workshop in the home of a well known Cuencano ceramicist, Ivan Encalaua. He is a second generation ceramicist and he has taken most of the business over from his father. He is the only ceramicist in Ecuador that makes and sells black clay pottery. The family also makes red clay pottery pieces which are very popular with locals. Sales, however, have slipped recently with the red clay because many people are buying planters made out of plastic or concrete. This is the reason why Ivan has started making pieces of out black clay. He is looking for a new business opportunity.
The class was held in his home and workshop (his father Jose and mother still live in the same home). We were given a tour of the home, gallery and workshop. The home dates back more than 100 years and they have added onto the space many times. The home is not entirely enclosed and so when it rains, there is lots of water pouring in everywhere. They have buckets under all of these areas. When we arrived the first day it was raining so hard we could barely hear Ivan when he was giving the tour. They have plastic roofing in some areas and when the rain hits it is super loud!!
The clay that we were worked with is not dark black but once it is fired it turns into a gorgeous black color. I made a cup, a bowl, and a plate. I made them all on a wheel with the help of Ivan and it was so much fun. It was tricky at first but I eventually was able to make shapes for a bowl and cup. One of my bowls, however, eneded up falling so I only have one bowl now. The next day we spent the whole time polishing our pieces with small smooth stones. My mom helped me with my plate while I worked on the bowl. Neither of us finished before it was to leave and I did not have time to start my cup. It is necessary to polish the clay with a stone so it looks dark black and shiny. There is no glaze put on the clay so it is really necessary to do a great job polishing. Hopefully my pieces will ooh good. According to Ivan, the black clay is very healthy to cook and eat on. I am excited to try mine out.
Posted by Maren Guy