Dolores Porras

In my very first trip to Oaxaca years ago, I was enchanted by the wonderful colorful garden pots throughout the patios of Las Golondrinas. The owner told me it would be too complicated to explain where he got them, but I was determined to find them anyway!

Dolores Porras has been creating pots for over 50 of her 65+ years. She is in the village of Santa Maria Atzompa, Oaxaca, and worked with her husband Alfredo since they married in 1954 (when she was 17) until he died a couple of years ago. When she was young, she worked with the traditional green glazes of the village and she and her husband also produced clay "munecas," or figures of women, for the famous Teodora Blanco.

In an attempt to pull their family out of poverty, she and Alfredo began to travel to the weekly market in the city of Oaxaca to sell their own work. Dolores began to make turtles, which were picked up by tourists at the market. A twist of good fate led her to an artist's studio in the city of Oaxaca to deliver an order. When Dolores saw the artists working in bright colors, she told her husband that they must figure out how to add colors to the otherwise just green Atzompa pottery. In the mid-1960's, they began experimenting with glazes and moved away from the typical green glazes used in the area. They developed a translucent white glaze that makes their pieces almost iridescent and use it as a background color behind details that are painted in bright rusts, cobalt blues, deep greens, and yellows. The pieces are hand-constructed and embellished with raised stripes, mermaids, flowers and regional lizards and then glazed with their distinctive glazes.

Alfredo died just a few years ago and Dolores' production was curtailed by his illness and death. In the past year or so, Dona Dolores has become more productive again. There are attempts by many in the villageto copy her work, but it is distinguished not only by the translucent glaze, but by the inimitable Picasso-like naïve figures that she paints or builds on the the surface of the pieces. Her mermaids, lizards, fish, turtles and snakes enchant the viewer! She is an incredibly creative Mexican folk artist!

Reference: Lois Wasserspring, Oaxacan Ceramics, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2000.