“Balam Guardian of the Night” is the title of a special exhibit of jaguar pottery showing at Mi México Galería and Boutique, located at Morelos 8, a block above the Ajijic pier.
The collection of ceramic figures and pots are unique works by Juan Pedro López López, an award-winning artisan from Amatenango del Valle, Chiapas.
The young artist follows in the footsteps of generations of alfareros (potters) who have brought fame to Amatenango for their craftsmanship, particularly for pieces featuring Balam, the sacred jaguar figure symbolizing the power of the night.
López learned his craft at the knee of his mother, experimenting with clay to create small figurines. Now in his prime, he produces one-of-a-kind jaguar sculptures in an array of sizes, pots and pitchers decorated with jaguars, and other ceramic objects fashioned by hand. And while dedicated to preserving the craft traditions of his village, he is also advancing the introduction of improved production techniques.
During a visit to the Escuela Nacional de Cerámica in Tapalpa, Jalisco, López was able to procure the Japanese design of a kiln to replace the open-air firing method employed in his home town. The modern oven uses the smoke from burning firewood to intensify the heat, resulting in more efficient use of forest prime material and reduced pollution of the atmosphere.
Aside from his ceramic arts, in 2014 Juan received an award for the creation of traditional ceremonial hats, reviving a laborious and dying craft in Amatenango once practiced by his own grandfather.
The Balam exhibit will remain at Mi México for several months until proprietor Alejandro Wagner returns from Germany this spring to repair the shop’s roof and refurbish its exterior.