The Chorotega Indians, an indigenous tribe of Costa Rica, have been making pottery for centuries. The villages of Guaitel (way-teal) and nearby Ste. Vincente are the last two settlements remaining and they are trying hard to keep this craft alive.
They get the sands for the clay from three different mountains about 4 km. away from the openings of iguana nests. The clay comes in three colours: tan, red ochre and black - with black being the hardest to get. No power wheels or tools are used as they are crafted just the way they were generations before.
We had met a lady in a local restaurant in Santa Cruz and she gave us her cousin's name and where her shop was in Guaitel. So the next day we took a trip through the hills and farms of the Guanacaste region to the village. It is a small settlement of about 200 people, with most working in the pottery business from their modest homes.
Below are the steps shown to us by Elma and her daughter, Jennifer.
Starting with a small amount of clay the base is formed.
Steading her hand with the pole, she turns the wheel with her other hand
Using a corn cob she shapes the piece
Corn Cob - one of the simple tools used
Rings of clay are added to the top to make the original piece bigger.
Using water, a piece of metal and her hands - Jennifer does a basic blending of the two pieces
Adding clay to the top
The vase begins to takes shape
When the desired shape and size is reached, the unfired piece is then washed with the clays of different colours
The three different colours of sand are mixed in mortars with pestles to make clay
After the coloured clays have been added, designs are etched on - again with simple tools and by hand.
The piece is then glazed and baked in their ovens
Pottery for salePrices:
Small items average $10-$20
Medium size items average $20-$50
Large items go up from there
Some artisans including Elma and her family will ship worldwide.
For more information on Guaitil and the Pottery: