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Celebrating Mayan Ceramics

Celebrating Mayan Ceramics

Brookley Spanbauer’s ceramics class has been learning the art of making pottery literally from the ground up. The class has been learning about the traditional earthenware of Central America, including the mixing and development of materials used in the process. On October 17, 2016, the class was inspired by a special visit from the San Antonio Women’s Collaborative (SAWC), a community group from the small village of San Antonio, in midwest Belize. The group’s President, Timotea Mesh, spoke to Groton High School’s art class about how the group revitalized the art of ceramics in their community, “When the ladies started gathering we decided we wanted to make pottery to teach ourselves, and our children also, about pottery since it was a big role in the life of our ancestors. So, we just started making pottery to learn from ourselves, and as time passed we learned it was important.” The group did not imagine their decision would end up having the international impact it did. Besides the products they sell, their simple lifestyle is dependent on the wide variety of food they grow, such as maize which is used to make Atole and ground into masa to make tortillas. The group teaches these skills to the younger generations as well as educating the occasional tourist about the native culture. It was one such tourist with a connection to Groton who learned about the San Antonio group and wanted to know more. Jeremiah Donovan, a ceramics professor from SUNY Cortland, traveled to Belize and made contact with the group. Donovan saw an opportunity for his students to learn artistic practices in the country where ceramics had evolved. Because a lot of the original knowledge was lost, it was a joint effort to reclaim ancient processes, and it was this learning experience that lead to a three year educational partnership between the Collaborative and SUNY Cortland. “He just fell like an angel here” Mesh said. “During those days, we met Jeremiah and we started working...learning about ceramics...through Jeremiah we learned how to make terra sigillata and (other processes) from natural things that we have from around our places.” Many of the techniques they discovered were shared with the Groton High School art class and the processes were explained. After this special presentation, Groton students had the chance to finish their own ceramic projects using authentic Mayan pigments that were developed from materials such as palygorskite clay and yellow iron oxide.

 


Celebrating Mayan Ceramics

Celebrating Mayan Ceramics

Celebrating Mayan Ceramics

Celebrating Mayan Ceramics

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