With five generations of pottery artisans, the Mandujano family has become the last pottery family of San Cristóbal, they emphasize that this trade symbolizes a family tradition and is also extremely complex to perform.
In San Cristóbal de las Casas, for 44 years, Cristóbal Mandujano Rosas has dedicated himself to the work of pottery. Cristóbal started from a very young age with his father, in a small workshop located on Aguascalientes Street in the San Ramón neighborhood, where their work is the main characteristic that represents this neighborhood since they are the last potters who continue to work in that municipality.
“My father, my grandfather and my great-grandfather also made pottery,” says Cristóbal, who is the fourth generation of artisans in his family who have continued with this trade.
Facade of the “San Ramón” workshop, where Cristóbal and his children work. Courtesy: Mónica Solorzano Gil.
In this pottery workshop, Cristóbal and his family dedicate at least five hours a day to making each of the pieces they sell. With the help of their children Verónica Mercedes, Miguel Ángel, Ricardo Cristóbal and Daniel de Jesús, this business has prospered and, above all, this family has preserved the tradition of shaping clay with their hands.
“Pottery is very beautiful and you have to be very fond of it to be a potter because it requires a lot of time and effort and that is what I have instilled in my children so that they learn well and not lose our roots” he adds.
It should be noted that this trade also has its degree of complexity, since five steps must be rigorously followed for the elaboration of the pieces.
First the preparation, where the raw material is kneaded so that the moisture and other particles are distributed homogeneously and to remove any air bubbles that it has inside (which can cause explosions during baking or burning).
The next thing is drying and polishing, considered the most important phase for the creation of the work is drying and polishing. The piece is left in the air until it dries and hardens enough. This phase is called the “leather state.”
Next comes the baking. Once the piece is dried, it is taken to the oven, where it loses chemical moisture and acquires greater resistance and sound. It may be that with this firing the piece is already finished, as is the case with artisanal pottery, or that it still requires subsequent firing, as in the case of ceramics.
Finally, the decoration and the glazing, a step that is sometimes varied since the piece is not always decorated. If the piece is decorated, it must be baked again after decorating.
A finished piece of pottery ranges from pesos and the largest is around 250 pesos, so buying them is relatively cheap and with them, the economy of artisan families is supported.
Each piece varies in price depending on the size, but still, they remain in an accessible range. Courtesy: Mónica Solorzano Gil.
Cristóbal assures that fortunately they have their clients, who sometimes make special requests that take time, but thanks to the fact that it is a family business, both he and his children put “hands to work” to meet the client’s requirements. .
In addition, it highlights that, as artisans, every day they try to improve their techniques for making the pieces, to do the best they can and satisfy the needs of those who come to them looking for the pieces they need to decorate their homes or businesses.
“We are here to serve you,” concludes Cristóbal, inviting the population to consume locally to help the economy of Chiapas families.