Tonaltepec lies in the hills of western Oaxaca, land that once hosted the powerful and artistic Mixtec city states. Eroded white hills and dry arroyos are the inheritance of this land, too long grazed and cultivated. Today, in Tonaltepec, folks make do with the wheat that can be teased from the soil and the bit of wool sheared from their flocks of sheep. Several families add to their fortunes by carrying on the pottery trade
The unusual, long, two-handled jugs of Tonaltepec were designed long ago for a specific purpose. They are strapped to the sides of burros and used to haul water from the creeks located, inconveniently, in the valley far below. The sharp taper at the top and the narrow mouth insure that a minimum of water will slop out during the trip back up the hill. The unique, wild finishing touch given to the pottery of Tonaltepec happens as the fired pots are pulled from the stone kiln and quickly splattered with an oak bark extract. The best reason we've heard for this finish is, "that's how my mother did it."
Copyright © 1995-2001 Tony and Eric Mindling