Dolores Porras: Oaxacan Potter

Dolores Porras at El Interior demonstrating her hand building techniques
Dolores Porras at El Interior demonstrating her hand building techniques
Dolores Porras at El Interior demonstrating her hand building techniques

The making of pottery among indigenous people is always a family affair, and Dolores Porras, with her family, had been creating pots for over 60 years. She lived in the village of Atzompa, Oaxaca, and when she was young, she worked with the traditional green glazes of the village as well as producing clay “muñecas,” or figures of women, as the chief assistant for the famous Teodora Blanco, who was herself a pioneer — taking Atzompa pottery from its previously strict utilitarian usage into an art form in which she expressed her creativity and sense of humor.

In an attempt to pull their family out of poverty, Dolores and her husband began to travel to the weekly market in the city of Oaxaca to sell their own work. One day, in a twist of good fate, Dolores went 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 early 1980s, she began experimenting with glazes and moved away from the typical green glazes that were then used in the area. She developed a translucent white glaze that made her pieces almost iridescent, and she used it as a background color behind details that were painted in bright rusts, cobalt blues, deep greens, and yellows.

Dolores hand-constructed each piece and often embellished them with raised stripes, mermaids, flowers and iguanas and then glazed them with her distinctive glazes. As word of her extraordinary talent spread, Dolores began doing demonstration workshops in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and on one such trip, was introduced to a lead-free glazing process, which she immediately adopted. Always the most generous of spirits, Dolores taught other potters in the U.S. her technique.

When Dolores’ husband died, her production was curtailed by her grief and her own failing health. Although there had been many attempts by others in the village to copy her work, it is distinguished not only by the translucent glaze, but by the inimitable Picasso-like figures that she painted or built on the the surface of the pieces. Her mermaids, iguanas, fish, turtles and snakes enchant the viewer, and her pieces have been in high demand by collectors and institutions since the 1980s. In addition to being the first of this now-famous artist’s customers, El Interior has been fortunate to have had Dolores come and give a personal demonstration at the store.

Dolores Porras has since passed away, so our small collection of her work are the last pieces that we will be able to get from this wonderfully innovative and extraordinarily talented artist.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *