Meet the Artisan

Carmen Gutierrez Vazquez

Carmen Gutierrez Flores (1973) was born in Landero y Coss, Veracruz, and started her interest in mud when, at 15 years old, she married a man from San Miguel Aguasuelos and moved there. Some of her husband relatives dedicate themselves to the pottery, traditional trade in that community, and Carmen began to help them in their duty. Just by watching and staring, she started learning and falling in love with clay. Due to her need to find an income, with fierceness, she started developing an incredible ability and skill in the making of pieces, because of her imagination and creativity. 

The technique that she uses is embroidered mud, typical of the community of Aguasuelos, it consist in pasting applications to the mud figures, also made in mud. The tools that they use to create their pieces are really basic: a wood lathe, sheets and thread of nylon to make cuts, and flat rock burnishers also known as olotes. The mud is brought from a village call Tecuan, located in Tepetate, and her husband helps her in the making bringing them home, where she works, all the raw materials needed to create her pieces: water, wood for the oven and other dusts that she uses to create dyes for her pieces.

Carmen Gutierrez creates pots, molcajetes, lamps and other utility objects; she also makes decorative pieces, like dolls, bells, trees of life, and animals. She does not use paints or dyes, her pieces are all natural mud color, sometimes, she gives them a light brown touch, and to protect them, she adds a natural “lacquer” known as engobe. 

What distinguishes her work is her finishing touch, that is very fine and elaborated, and the “bordado” embroider with which she displays her creativity and makes unique, attractive pieces. 

The procedure that Carmen Gutierrez follows to prepare and work with mud is very traditional, and she makes it her own. She slaps the dried material with sticks until getting a fine dust that later, if needed, grinds in a metate (large traditional hand grinder) to sieve several times and remove any unwanted material that it could contain. Later on, she adds water and makes a mixture that covers with plastic bags and places it in a closed place. From this she takes sized pieces, the size depends on the piece, and she shapes, creates and let her imagination run wild.

Once shaped, she smooths the pieces and lets them dry in the shadow, protecting them from the air. After she adds the embroidered, mud application decorations, or “de bulto”, as Carmen describes, and that is an element that describes her pieces the best, for the complex work that is implied and the creativity that prints in them with this technique. 

Last, she burnishes with rocks or with an olote, to give them an even smooth, she sundries them, and burns them in the oven. 

Shortly after dedicating herself to pottery, Carmen started outstanding for the quality and elegance of her creation shapes. Along with women of San Miguel Aguasuelos, she received the support of Banamex Cultural Development to fix her oven, also to improve the packaging of her pieces. Before the admiration that her pieces created, since 2002 she decided to participate in diverse national and local competitions, in which she has been awarded and recognized by her labor, of what she is really proud. Among the competitions that she has participated in stand out the Great Popular Art Award Independence Bicentenary and the Revolution Centenary 2010, in the section of glazed pottery, the 16th edition of the National Competition of Mexican Nacimientos, 2009, in which she was awarded 2nd place in mud decoration with engobes (glazed pottery); and the Pottery National Award, 2011, in which was awarded 3rd place. Her recent contest was the Pottery Contest, 2011, that took place in Xalapa, Veracruz, in which she won 2nd place. 

Carmen loves sharing her experience and expertise, and she has had the opportunity to do so by teaching with patience and effort to many people, besides her kids. She was invited once, for example, to give a two months course to a group of people in Limones, Cosotlan, who continue to work her techniques. Also, she receives children of her community in her workshop, the kids that get close by curiosity end up learning from her techniques. 

Another thing that makes Carmen Gutierrez Flores proud is imparting her knowledge to her children Norma, Miguel Angel and Jessica, who share her love for mud figures, and have choose as well to dedicate themselves to this activity with quality and mastery, in a pottery community that in the last decade has had an incredible resurgence.

Carmen Gutierrez Vazquez collection

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