The black ceramic of Oaxaca has quite a history. About 70 years ago in the small town of San Bartolo Coyotepec outside of Oaxaca, an indigenous woman named Rosa Real discovered that she could polish black clay pottery with a piece of quartz, leaving it smooth, shiny, and stunningly beautiful. Since then, this pottery has become quite famous, found in galleries and museums around the world.
Several other towns in the area produce this craft but San Bartolo Coyotepec remains the best-known source and Rosa’s family still produces black pottery the way it did 70 years ago.
You can visit their workshop easily as the town is only about 30 minutes south of Oaxaca. The pottery is really attractive. The artisans still craft every piece by hand. What sets this pottery apart from others are the intricate decorations carved into each piece, which is what gives it its beauty.
A word of caution if you buy some. There’s something about the process that renders the black ceramic of Oaxaca relatively weak and fragile. If you buy some pieces in Coytotepec, you should really hand-carry them back home because they probably won’t survive the ride in your suitcase. Careful packing with plenty of bubble wrap might help but it’s not a guarantee. I cradled the piece my wife and I bought (pictured below) in my hands pretty much the whole flight home but it did make it safe and sound. It’s now a beautiful addition to our home.