World Ceramics: How was it made?

This standing figure was assembled from hand-built, separately modeled sections. The elaborate methods of decoration, large scale, and expressiveness suggest that such pieces were made by trained craftspeople. To make this female figure, the artist first rolled out a large slab of clay and draped it over a convex mold to form a large, hollow torso. Then two long, thin ropes of clay were rolled between the hands and attached to her body. Massive elephant-like legs were modeled and huge toes carved out on each foot. A thick, plain headband was shaped and placed around her forehead, while a flattened sheet of clay provided a long wraparound skirt.

Another noteworthy aspect of the figure is her carefully detailed jewelry. The artist formed and applied numerous small half-circles of clay by hand to represent the polished stones of her fanlike earrings.

West Mexican pottery figures are all low-fired, porous EARTHENWARE. They were dried and then baked on or near an open flame, or in simply constructed open kilns, to make the clay harder and stronger. (A closed kiln is required to produce the high temperatures necessary for creating harder, nonporous stoneware.) After firing, the artist painted on patterned fabrics, facial decoration, and jewelry in white, red, yellow, and black mineral and vegetable PIGMENTS. Remnants of paint are seen on this figure's face, headband, and skirt. Her fingernails, toenails, and teeth were painted white. The colors have worn off or faded over time because they were not baked on in the firing process.

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