Adventures in travel with Robert Watcher and Anne Watcher
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Unglazed Terracotta Pottery

by Anne Watcher on Wednesday February 20th, 2008 at 7:15am

This little shop is mingled in with all the sodas along the road heading into Alajuela. The unglazed pottery for sale was quite beautiful and is a local craft of Costa Rica. Some of it was painted but most was in it's raw state. Also for sale were hammocks which are perfect for that afternoon nap, if you can get in and out safely!!!

In the town of Guaitil on the Nicoya Peninsula the resident artisans fashion their pottery in the tradition of the Chorotega Indians, once an indigenous population that was later absorbed into the Costa Rican culture. The tradition of making hand-thrown pottery has been handed down from generation to generation for over 800 years.

The craft of the Chorotega pottery makers support their entire village and all family members learn the craft. Collecting the sand for the clays to make the pottery requires a rigorous journey by bus and foot to three different mountains, the finest sand being found at the opening of the iguana nests there. Three different colors of sand are used for the clays - tan, red ochre, and black. Black sand is the most difficult to obtain, so it is not always available. The sand is then mixed in large mortars with pestles to turn it into clay.

All of the pots are thrown completely by hand - no foot pedal or electricity used, only the skill of the potter's hands. Once the pot is formed, contrasting clays of either ochre or black are used to wash the outside of the unfired pots. Then intricate designs, said to have been power and fertility symbols of the Chorotega Indians, are carved into the surface of each piece. The pots are then fired in a wood burning, igloo-shaped, earthen kiln that can be seen in each artisan's yard.

If our travels take us to the northwest (about 8 hrs. by bus) we will post pictures of this beautiful art form. Rob would love to photograph the artisans at work.

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