San Bartolo de Coyotepec, a small town in southern Mexico, is well known for its black clay pottery, which has been produced there for centuries. This style of pottery is one of the most popular and appreciated in all of Mexico.
The history of the black clay pottery goes back more than 2000 years to the Zapotec civilization, which resided mainly in Oaxaca, the state where this small town is located. The soil from this area was used by potters and artisans to create durable clay jars and dishes, which were grayish in color. The popularity of the clay emerged when Doña Rosa Real, a local potter, discovered a way to make the dull gray pieces black and lustrous, by polishing the clay pottery before it was dry and firing it at a slightly lower temperature. This change in the process turned the drab gray pottery into beautiful and polished pieces which are in high demand.
The striking pottery is developed during hours of care and patience, in which the artisan shapes the clay, lets the pieces dry (a process which can take as long as three weeks); polishes and decorates them with intricate drawings, open-work, or handles; and finally bakes them using traditional underground firing methods to produce as a final result the gleaming and sophisticated black clay pottery that decorates our homes.