From his studio in Tlaquepaque, Enrique Castro of D’Casa México shares insights about the world of Mexican ceramics, and how his family-owned business performs the modern day alchemy of turning “dust” into art.
Enrique’s family has been in the business for about 28 years, using their skills and imagination to create standardized and custom pieces for lovers of Mexico’s stoneware. His father started it, and now Enrique assumes the role of lead “maestro” along with a team of eight artisans who, together, produce about 100 pieces of stoneware daily. The success of his business is, of course, a testament to the beautiful ceramics they craft — but it also owes itself to a deep knowledge and appreciation for the process (and its history) as much as the final product itself. The celebration of México’s Artisan’s Day is especially prominent in Tlaquepaque, one of the country’s focal points for tourism-driven handicrafts, and where D’Casa is based:
“Here in Tlaquepaque, we live from handmade goods. It’s so important. The city celebrates and acknowledges this day to a great extent. And we are proud of the handicrafts that aren’t appreciated as much locally, as they are outside of México. The entire process fills us with pride.”
For Enrique, it was important to start off by giving us a brief history of ceramics in México. Namely, that the processes employed came to México from Europe (first originating in Denmark, the Netherlands, and traveling first to the U.S. and then México in the mid-20th century). Talavera is the exception, as it dates back to the Spanish conquista: pottery was practiced in México well before then, but the Spanish brought with them the art of glazing and enameling, presumably from the city of Talavera de la Reina. It just so happened that the valleys of Puebla are rich in the raw material needed to produce ceramics, and that is how the state became the epicenter of the Talavera boom that still defines it today. But these foreign processes weren’t produced without Mexican influence (remember that pottery and ceramics abounded in prehispanic times, although this was limited to polychrome clay work). What happened was not only a merging of cultures, but of foreign processes that were then given a Mexican touch. Put briefly, the Europeans brought the process, and Mexicans added their colors, characteristics, motifs, and designs. That is how we arrived at the works we know and love today, which include not only Talavera, but Petatillo and Capula, among many others.
What is most fascinating to Enrique about the work is that the broad scope of ceramic products around the world are all based on four simple ingredients (artisans just play around with the ratios and temperatures): silica, clay, kaolin and feldspar. For example, clay pottery is elaborated at low temperatures, Talavera at medium temperatures, and Celadon pottery at high temperatures (at least 1280 degrees Celsius). High temperature works are more time consuming and costly, but this also guarantees durability, strength, and a lead-free product.
As far as the method, D’Casa employs three different types:
- Modelado, or sculpting and molding by hand
- Moldeado, by which an atole-like liquid mixture is poured into plaster moulds that then absorb the humidity and material until it reaches desired thickness
- Torneado, or through the use of a ceramics wheel to facilitate shaping
After the work is shaped, it takes about five days to dry — in the first round. It is then polished with a sponge and pottery knifes to refine the shape, and dried a second time for one day. What follows is the step where artisans get to use their imagination a bit more: painting, by hand, any design that inspires them at the moment, and sometimes a design that the client specifically requests. After painting, it is glazed for protection (this is why the colors on D’Casa’s stoneware doesn’t deteriorate). Finally, it is put into the oven for a second and last time. The process for each piece, from beginning to end, spans at least 25 days.
For us, the cost (and wait!) to receive D’Casa’s dazzling Talavera is entirely worth it. No two pieces are alike, but the dedication, passion, and talent is evident on every single one of them. Artelexia is proud to stock our shelves with D’Casa’s stoneware, which has been so popular, we already put in an order for more! 😉