Peruvian Vases

November 21, 2016

How artisans in Peru use centuries-old techniques to make modern clay vessels.

Head to Northern Peru near the Ecuadorian border and you’ll discover the small town of Chulucanas, where since the pre-Inca times, artisans have been handcrafting pottery out of native clay. Originally mixed by hand, the clay is now processed in a plant within the town to regulate consistency and create a more stable product. Inspired by their gorgeous handiwork and commitment to artistry, we’ve partnered with the community to make a series of contemporary vases—tortuga, vicus, and talara—that feature stylish gold leaving and rich, black finishes. Follow along as we break down the production process, which transforms simple blocks of clay into uniquely-shaped vessels for the modern home.

1. Once a block of clay is cut, an artisan softens it by repeatedly pounding the clay on a flat surface.

2. Using a pottery wheel, an artisan turns the clay into a vessel, cutting and forming it into the desired shape.

3. If the vase has a pattern, the artisan wraps the vessel in either netting that’s covered with more clay (for tortuga) or strips of tape (for vicus and talara).

4. The vessel is fired in an outdoor kiln.

5. The vessel is fired again, but this time the process is done atop burning mango leaves in an outdoor kiln to create a blackened finish.

6. The vases are removed from the kiln; an artisan applies gold leafing and hand polishes the vessel with a stone.

7. Once dry, the vases are carefully wrapped and shipped to customers.


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