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A Jatumpamba Pottery

Jatumpamba pottery in the market in Cuenca, EcuadorThe following images are from the village of Jatupamba in the Andean region of southern Ecuador near the city of Cuenca. The potters here make mostly undecorated vessels which are fired in a simple bonfire firing. The pots are made from a combination of pinching and pulling the clay, and by pounding the clay with two clay mallets, a convex one on the inside and a concave mallet outside. The pots are covered with a coarse red clay slip and finally fired quite quickly in a bonfire-type firing when thoroughly dry.

I would like to thank Joe Molinaro and also San Diego State University for making it possible for me to visit this village and take these photographs.


All photos (c) 1994 Richard Burkett
Note that some shift in color may occur in translating these
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a potter's house in Jatumpamba

The potter's house and studio are one and the same. The work area is under the house in a small low-ceiling room, open to the outdoors (where all the people are sitting in the photo). A number of potters work in this town and the surrounding area making similar work. The potters are primarily women as far as I could tell, although the whole extended family often helps. The ware produced is well known in the markets of Cuenca, the largest city nearby.

mixing clay by hand in a metal drum

While the potter Maria Margarita Enriquez works, her father starts mixing a new batch of clay. He has slaked some powdered clay in a barrel and puts it on a pile of dry powdered clay on clean spot on the dirt floor of the work area.

mixing clay by foot

Clay mixing procedes by mixing with the feet - a clay stomp. More dry powder is sifted onto this mass of clay and mixed until the proper consistency is reached.

potter working while dry clay is sifted in background

Clay is sifted through a metal can lid which has small holes punched into it. The potter is expanding the rounded bottom of large jar by pounding it thinner with two clay mallets. The pot was started on a previous day by a combination of pinching and pulling the clay to form a rough interior with a finished rim. This preliminary form is allowed to stiffen before the thick bottom is expanded and thinned.

clay mixing continues with added dry clay

The mixing continues.

Maria Margarita Enriquez works on a new pot

Maria Margarita Enriquez keeps working, enlarging the pot while her father mixes clay.

smoothing the surface of a pot with clay mallets

The simple clay mallets that she uses to pound the clay thinner are kept in a bowl of water and rewetted periodically. The clay is pounded until it is really quite thin, perhaps one-eighth to one-quarter inch thick, truly amazing for such large forms considering how soft the clay is at this point. Toward the end of the forming process, the surface is smoothed and evened out by moving the mallets together like ribs over the surface of the form. Remember, one mallet is held inside and one outside. Both are moved in perfect unison - try this sometime!

thumbnail of Jatumpamba pottery in the market More Jatumpamba pottery photos

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