Mexican Barro Betus - SHOP ONLINE

The Ortega family has been working in barro betus for generations. Also called Cerámica Fantástica (Fantastic Ceramics) because of the bright colours used, barro betus gets its name from the oil bath it receives in aceite de betus (oil of betus - a resin extracted from the pine tree) before it is fired.

The process begins with "tortillando" or kneading the clay into unique shapes. The kiln is readied to fire pieces created several days before. Before firing, the clay is black. The pieces have to be dried in the open air before baking them or they will explode. The firing is done at a very low temperature compared to other types of ceramics. Each figure is rubbed with oil just before firing, giving them a lacquered appearance once finished. Kilns are simple brick holes covered with old tiles.

Gerardo Ortega is well known for his Arboles de la Vida (Trees of Life). His teacher was his father, Eleuterio Ortega Hernandez, and his grandmother, Natividad Hernandez. Gerardo is the 4th. generation to work with barro betus.

His grandparents worked in the fields in the planting and harvesting seasons and in their spare time were engaged in developing their art. Gerardo's grandmother designed pieces such as roosters, animals, candlesticks, chests of animals and fruits, covered with nahuales (a human being who has the power to magically turn him- or herself into an animal form, most commonly donkey, turkey and dogs, but also other and more powerful animals) bodies and surrealistic figures. The origin of barro betus dates back to colonial times and is surrounded by myths. The most popular pieces of art are the colourful Nahual figures with the reputation of coming from a magical world.

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