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Kichwa Potters of Jatun Molino

The following images are from the small village of Jatun Molino on the Rio Bobonaza in the Amazonian basin of Ecuador. The potters here make highly decorated vessels which are fired in a simple bonfire firing and coated with a tree sap resin to waterproof them. The shine on the surface comes from this resin coating. The people are known as the Kichwa (formerly spelled Quichua), or sometimes the Canelos Kichwa from the town of Canelos which is nearby.

For more information on this fascinating and beautiful work, please read Joe Molinaro's article (linked here on the CeramicsWeb). I would like to thank Joe Molinaro and also San Diego State University for making it possible for me to take these photographs.


All photos (c) 1994 Richard Burkett
Note that some shift in color may occur in translating these
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map of the Pastaza region of Ecuador

Map of the Pastaza region of Ecuador. Jatun Molino is about in the center of the map, on the Rio Bobonaza reachable only by river or airplane, despite what looks like a road on the map.

The village of Jatun Molino on the he rio Bobonaza.

Jatun Molino from the air with the Rio Bobonaza flowing past. This is nearly the entire village. The dirt airstrip is at the top right just out of the picture.

Typical Kichwa house.

A typical house in this region of the Amazon basin. The family typically lives upstairs, with storage and animals kept below. The pottery is often fired in the family cooking fire, which is sometimes built on the wooden upper floor on a sand and clay covered pad to protect the floor from the heat. Larger pieces are fired outdoors.

Dora digs clay with her hands

Dora digging clay. She has found a spot near one of the garden areas which has a smooth, clean gray clay with pretty good plasticity. She loads several handfuls of it onto a palm leaf to carry back to the pottery area. This type of clay will be used to make mucawas, the chicha-drinking bowls.

Elsa coiling a mucawa from clay

Elsa works on coiling a mucawa. These are completely coil-built, then carefully smoothed and scraped with a gourd rib. The shapes are remarkably symmetrical. No wheel of any type is used. After initial shaping the mucawas are put aside to stiffen before finishing work is done.

Olivia trims the rim of a mucawa with her teeth

Olivia trims the rim of this mucawa by biting it off with her teeth. She then smooths the rim with a small piece of wet corn husk. Once the form is finished, the mucawas are put aside to dry before painting.

Kichwa tinaja More Kichwa pottery photos

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