Angélica Vásquez Cruz at work in her studio.
Master Potter from Oaxaca
Angélica Vásquez Cruz is a Master Potter from Atzompa, Oaxaca, Mexico. She is the sister of Enedina Vasquez, both of whom began working with clay at a young age. Angélica does not actually paint her work, but instead developed a process using “adobes,” her term for natural colored substances such as stone or volcanic ash. She utilizes this one-of-a-kind process to add a variety of different hues to her works of art. She is the recipient of the prestigious Mexican National Arts and Sciences Award in the “Arts and Traditions” category in 2009, which is Mexico’s highest honor for artists. It was presented to her by the former President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, at the Presidential residence of Los Piños.
Angelica works with local clay from the region, as did her ancestors. Like many of the artisans that we work with at El Interior, her craft and trade is passed down from generation to generation. She learned these skills from her father, who was taught by his father before him. More recently, Angelica’s daughter has learned the craft from her, and hopefully, it will one day be passed down to her granddaughter. She uses all-natural ingredients and utensils, as is customary, including all lead-free cookware which is constructed in the traditional method and wood-fired. A gas kiln is used to fire the more elaborate, larger figures that can be used outdoors as garden art. Ms. Vasquez has been recognized as one of the great masters of Oaxaca folk art by Fomento Cultural Banamex. This national foundation is responsible for recognizing and awarding Mexico’s best in class craftspeople.
History in the Making
The geography and history of Oaxaca date back over 1,500 years. Monte Alban is the most important archaeological site of the Valley of Oaxaca and can be viewed from Angelica Cruz’s studio. Her enduring pottery art is influenced by the long succession of peoples who inhabited the region – Olmecs, Zapotecs, and Mixtecs. The terraces, dams, canals, pyramids and artificial mounds of Monte Albán were literally carved out of the mountain. They are symbols of a sacred topography. The colors that decorate the pieces come from rocks that are ground on the metate (ancient stone hand grinder) to make a powder, that is then reconstituted with water.