Shopping around Puerto Vallarta you can come across a broad variety of reproductions of pre-Columbian ceramic reproductions from all over Mexico and Central America. The last thing I anticipated is that I would get a chance to meet one of the few master clay artists creating these pieces during my recent stay at Hotelito Jardin del Tuito. And I was so taken by this humble man, whose stories I got to enjoy during the course of a memorable dinner, I decided to write about him separately. Jose Luis Solorio Ramírez (or Don Luis, as he’s known by many) learned the trade from his family when he was young, and has been working with clay for approximately 45 years. And while he has a repertoire of pieces he can create from memory, he is quite adept at working directly from photographs of other pieces or designs he can reproduce from archeology books. And when it’s time to take a break from work, he pulls out his harmonica and plays a few tunes to amuse visitors while a choir of howling dogs join in the festivity!
El Tuito is a rich source of clay, which he extracts and prepares himself until it has the texture of soft plasticine. Once a piece is molded, it is polished and painted. Finally, he fires all his pieces in his own brick kilns. Finally, a patina is added.
If you are shopping for this type of decorative art for your home, your best bet is to take a trip to Tuito, and stop by Hotelito Jardin del Tuito, where owners Alain and Lolo have assembled an impressive display of his creations, which are available for purchase. On the other hand, if you are an artist and would like to get your own fingers involved in the process, Don Luis works closely with local artist Patricia Gawle, who organizes clay making and ceramics adventure workshops in El Tuito.