Pottery Videos

I filmed this video in September of 2001. It deals with a utilitarian pottery manufacturing tradition typical of the lower Guayas Basin region of coastal Ecuador. The settlement of Las Piñas is located northeast of the city of Daule on the road to El Laurel, the parroquial center.

The method of making pottery for domestic use that you see here is pre-Hispanic. The manufacturing methods of the women potters from Las Piñas owe nothing to the Spanish who introduced the potter’s wheel and the kiln into the Ecuadorian highlands during the 16th century.  

Archaeologists interested in the pre-Hispanic Milagro culture and their pottery will benefit from seeing this video. The construction methods used by these peasant women potters are typical of the pottery manufacturing techniques of the lower Guayas Basin. This region includes the areas north of the city of Guayaquil including the cities of Daule and Pascuales, and formerly Samborondón as well, prior the introduction of the wheel and kiln from the Cuenca highlands during the early 20th century.

The method of hand-building you see here is known as “drag modeling”. It represents just one of four distinct pottery forming methods used on the Ecuadorian coast. In drag modeling, the vessel is formed by hollowing out and dragging the clay upwards from a solid cone-shaped lump of clay. Note that none of the clay is actually removed from the lump, but is simply redistributed to form the shape. On the first day, the potter “gets the pots standing” dragging the clay upwards from the center of the cone using her fingers.

After the soft clay has stiffened somewhat, the walls are thinned and the final shape is created with the use of a gourd shaper and scraper called a “cuchara” or “spoon”. Some potters, like Maruja seen here will add a fat coil to reinforce the rim or to form the neck of the vessel. Others, from the same region, form the rim and/or neck solely by manipulating the clay from the solid lump of clay without adding a coil. As the clay coil is really very moist, you will see that Maruja literally smears and squishes it onto the wall of the vessel, distributing the clay very well and incorporating it into the body of the vessel. Maruja, like other potters from this region take care so as not to create a seam that could later become an unwanted fracture point between the body and the neck. But make no mistake–drag modeling of the body is the primary construction technique, with coil being a optional secondary technique used primarily to form the rim or neck of the vessel and not the main body of the earthenware pot itself.

When the pot is stiff enough to support its own weight, it is turned upside down in order to cut off the bottom or “ass” that was used for rotating the vessel manually on a wet board during the initial forming.

The gourd “cuchara is the most important tool of the Guayas basin potter. It is multipurpose–serving not only as a “shaper” but also as a “scraper” when its edge is used to remove clay from the inside and outside walls. It is manufactured from the fruit of the “gourd tree” (Crescentia cujete), found growing nearby every potter’s home.
All pots that are used for cooking have rounded bottoms that make for even heat distribution when cooking over the flame.

On about the 4th or the 5th day, the pot is given a cursory burnish with a smooth river stone, and then after applying a red slip, it is burnished again. Applying a red slip is a Guayas Basin tradition that is not seen today among coastal potters from other areas, such as in Manabí or Esmeraldas Provinces. The Guayas Basin potters all tell me that they like for the pots to be “flame red” and dislike the “washed out” tan color of a fired pot that is lacking the “tierra coloradita” or red slip.

During the dry season, firing takes place on the morning of the 6th day, usually a Saturday when in the afternoon the merchants arrive to buy the recently fired pots. Firing is carried out ‘bonfire” style with the pots stacked carefully in a pile. The pots on the outside of the pile in contact with the wood or bamboo fuel will often have black fire-clouds on their surfaces. The potters attempt to minimize fire-clouding by removing the pots from the spent fuel while still hot.

Kathleen M. Klumpp
Videographer and Producer


In my role as a potter, I have also been fascinated with a specialized ancient ceramic decorative technique known as “Iridescent Painting” that is characterized by finger-painted designs bearing a unique silvery to rose colored metallic luster. Iridescent painting is no longer being done, having been in fashion from about 1000 B.C to 200 A.D on earthenware made for ritual purposes . Thus, traditional peasant potters in coastal Ecuador have no idea of how this luster could have been achieved since the techniques were lost many, many generations ago.
In this first video posted to VIMEO, “La Pintura Iridiscente: Réplicas Experimentales de Una Técnica Precolombina”, I bring to light what I believe to be the techniques of this lost ceramic technology of coastal Ecuador By means of experimental replications using only raw materials and techniques that would have been accessible to the ancient potters, I document my hypothesis of how iridescent painting was achieved.

The voiceover is in Spanish to insure access by Spanish speaking viewers.

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