Assistant Store Manager Visits Ceramic Workshop in Guatemala

As part of our UPAVIM Artisan learning tour, Kathi Panknen and I visited Ceramica Mayan, a ceramics workshop in the scenic Mayan village of San Antonio Palopo in Guatemala.  San Antonio is located on the eastern shore of Lake Atitlán. We took a peaceful stroll to get to the workshop.  I was immediately impressed by the size of Ceramica Mayan.  Alisa, our guide, told us that the owners, Marco Antonio and Teresa, were expanding the business due to their success in selling beautiful, handmade ceramics in Guatemala as well as in the USA.

As we entered the workshop, we could see several dozen artisans busy at work in the different departments. The air was filled with the scent of clay and glaze. Our first stop was the show room filled with shiny and beautiful hand-painted ceramics of different sizes and designs. We wished we had more room in our luggage for purchases, but we resisted the best we could.

Santo, who has worked with clay for seven years, explained the lengthy process of making a mug.  Each mug is  made from a mixture of three types of clay found in Guatemala. The clay is poured into molds where it dries, and excess water is poured out.  After three hours the mug is removed from the mold and continues to dry for two to three days.  Before firing, each mug is hand sanded by women to remove any seams.  Next the mugs are fired in a kiln at 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Following the baking, each piece is sprayed with a white glaze, hand painted with a freestyle design, and then covered with a clear glaze.  Finally, the mugs are loaded in a 1,200 degree kiln for nine hours.  The result is beautiful, shiny mugs that are microwave safe and free of lead.

The Work of Our Hands carries an assortment of mug styles as well as a few other ceramic pieces from Ceramica Mayan. One of our best sellers is the hummingbird mug.  Customers cannot resist the beauty of the hummingbird, which can be found throughout North and Central America.

How does your ceramic purchases positively impact the artisans in San Antonio?  With your purchases of beautiful fair trade mugs, Marco Antonio has been able to provide well-paying jobs for a dozen of local artisans and workers in the village. Workers have been able to send their children to school and earn a living in their own community, alleviating the need to leave to find work elsewhere. It’s a win, win!

By Anna Allen, Assistant Manager at The Work of Our Hands

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