Heaven Scent Pottery

Heaven Scent Pottery
Jorge Wilmot Cat

Jorge Wilmot Tonala Cat

One of the first posts I wrote for this site was about these highly decorative items from Mexico. The first piece I found was this little Jorge Wilmot cat. Drawn to his cute face and pretty floral decoration I just had to have him. Back home, I set about trying to establish his provenance but try as I might I couldn’t pin down a maker. It was only when I was researching a totally different china cat that I stumbled across pictures of similar objects and discovered he came from South America.

Barro Brunido Pottery

Barro Brunido Pottery

Ceramics production dates back thousands of years in Mexico. Tonalá was already an important centre for potters before new high fire, stoneware production techniques were introduced in the 1960s by renowned potters, Jorge Wilmot and Ken Edwards. Local potters had traditionally worked in the barro bruñido style where pieces are slip decorated before being polished or ‘burnished’ with a stone. Clay from the area was too porous for domestic products so they mainly produced decorative items in a muted colour palette of soft greys and pinks on a light pastel background. Floral and animal motifs were common, in particular a smiling cat or ‘nahual’, believed to be a shamanic, shape-shifting figure.

tonala1

Ken Edwards Stoneware

After studying fine arts, Jorge Wilmot left Mexico to travel and work in Europe and Scandinavia before returning home to immerse himself in traditional Mexican pottery techniques. Partnering with Edwards, he introduced the first stoneware kiln to Tonalá and went on to produce high fired stoneware, transforming the local porous clay into vitreous or semi-vitreous, nonporous ceramics.

In the intervening time since I first wrote about it my Tonalá Pottery collection has grown enormously. I now have nearly two dozen pieces by a variety of makers. Some are just mass-produced tourist souvenirs but I am very proud to have a number of signed pieces by both Wilmot and Edwards. Occasionally I also find an old barro bruñido piece. These are extra special because the clay retains a pleasant aroma. When dusting the collection I will sometimes stop to sniff the brunido pieces – much to the amusement of my husband – because they really do give off the heavenly scent of caramel toffee!

If you’ve also got a collection of beautiful Tonalá Pottery or any other wonderful ceramics, or you want to know more about my Tonalá, why not get in touch via the Contacts page – I’d love to hear from you.