DATES: August 21 to August 30, 2017
COST: $900 if registered by June 15, $975 after June 15
Join Potters for Peace for a 10-day Work Brigade to Loma Panda, Nicaragua. Loma Panda is a very small mountain settlement located in the municipality of San Lucas, in the department of Madriz. It is in northern Nicaragua, near the Honduras border and it is VERY remote.
In Loma Panda, we will work with a women’s ceramic cooperative. This special group of women is famous for creating whimsical figures and ceramic dolls with movable parts. We will spend most of the week helping them replace the deteriorated roof over their studio. Halfway through the week we will take a break and travel to Canon de Somoto, for a swim and to take in the breathtaking scenery.
All tools will be provided and no special experience is required. The tentative brigade schedule is as follows:
Aug 21 Arrival in Managua
Aug 22Travel to Loma Panda
Aug 23 – 28 Rebuilding roof in Loma Panda with a mid-week break to the Somoto Canyons
MONDAY: The brigade stopped at La Maysuta and “played in the mud” and then it was on to Santa Rosa where we had enough time to lay out the base of a new kiln before stopping for dinner and then retiring to our homestays.
Laying the foundation.
TUESDAY: We built a little kiln designed by Douglas— The “Mani Nahum” — at Santa Rosa. When we ran out of bricks, we visited the brickyard in Mozonte where they throw 60 lb flowerpots on the kickwheel.
WEDNESDAY: We headed to Loma Panda and after a long steep walk we watched a doll-making demo and ate a delicious lunch.
Making dolls at Loma Panda.
THURSDAY: This was our final day in el campo and we had worked hard so we relaxed in Somoto Canyon, a new tourist attraction that features a boat ride, swimming and tubing in the warm, clear canyon pools, and an optional horse ride on the way back. We spent the night at Laguna de Apoyo where we swam in the clear deep lake water and then it was back to Managua and our flights home.
FRIDAY: In spite of being without power for a few hours, we still managed to get the large shed totally welded up and painted, and put chimneys on two of the kilns. If we can get some consistent power, we have a shot at finishing on time.
SATURDAY: We finished the big kiln shed and completed welding the frame on the small one. Alvaro, Carlos and Douglas (the young ones) put in twelve hours and the rest of us put in ten. When we got back to the hotel we had a special treat—ibuprofen all around.
SUNDAY: We got ‘er done! Painted and got the roof on the second kiln shed, put a chimney on the third kiln, and built a little retaining wall to keep the water out. Tired, sore, and happy!
This week the 2017 Brigade is building a new kiln shed at Ducuale because the previous shed collapsed in the heavy rains. This time the shed is being framed with metal which should last a good long time. On Day 1, the brigade completed most of the framing.
On Day 2 they lost power for most of the day so—no welding! Instead they decorated pots for smoke firing, did demos and played on the kick wheels. They also cut out all the horizontal roof beams—by hand.
In the photo below, a brigadista is painting a slip decoration onto a burnished, once-fired bowl. The bowl will be smoked in a small kiln and the unslipped clay will turn dark brown. When the slip is washed off the bowl after the second firing, the decoration will show in a contrasting orangey-brown color. This method of decorating is unique to Ducuale.
Built screens to sieve the clay to make a fine mortar to built the kiln roof.
Kit and James are using the sieves.
Took a walk and saw this pig on the road just taking a nap in a mud puddle!
Grinding old bricks down into grog to add to the mortar. Yukky job!
Constructing the roof to the kiln. Step 1: make a form from plywood and brace it up flush with the top of the kiln. Next, dip bricks in the hand-made mortar and stack them vertically on the form. Finally, place threaded rod around the bricks and tighten them together. The remaining slip was poured on top.
A picture of the entire kiln and shed as of Sunday.
Constructed the first half of the chimney today. The challenge of tying the old kiln and the new kiln together in one chimney required some fancy brick work!
Another view of the kiln and the first few feet of the new chimney. The finished chimney will be 11 ft tall. Completed 4 feet today, hoping to finish the chimney tomorrow. We also still need to build the roof of the kiln.
This is an overview of the entire project. You can see the new kiln shed, the old kiln built by Ron Rivera and the new kiln.
Today there were two beautiful ducks in the river. This is where the group cools off every day; also the source for water to make mortar and clay.
The group is spending time under the porch of the studio getting to know Carlos’s family.
There is a large extended family and many beautiful young children.
The men who are working on the shed finished constructing the frame today. Martin, Carlos’s brother, is teaching us how to lay roof tiles. We will start the roofing tomorrow and plan to complete the shed.
Stopping at an overlook on the way to San Juan de Limay
Assessing the kiln sight at Ceramic colectivo la Naranja
Carlos decided to keep the original kiln and build the new kiln next to it. The two kilns will share the chimney. Our group split into two groups one to build the shed and one the kiln. We are building both at the same time.
This was my third brigade to Nicaragua and it seems that they just keep getting better and better. Our first day featured a visit to Filtron, a ceramic water filter factory where we tried out the filter press and watched an engrossing presentation on the PFP Ceramic Water Filter Program by our fearless leader.
In the pottery museum in Granada we saw the pre-Columbian origins of some of the forms and decoration that we would encounter throughout our trip, and at La Paz Centro we learned how to make both tortillas and comales (the traditional clay plate that tortillas are cooked in).
At Las Sabenetas we jumped right into a pile of wet clay and horse manure that we mixed with our bare feet and then used as mortar to build a traditional kiln. In San Juan de Limay we carved sandstone at the studio of the well-known carver, Oscar Enrique Casco, and were serenaded on guitar by a neighbour who happened by. At Ducuale we had a sort of pottery painting party: the artisans demonstrated their unique form of slip-resist smoked decoration and then they gave us bowls, cups and plates so that we could try out their techniques. Plus we got to take our finished work home.
We enjoyed homestays and delicious home-cooked meals at Santa Rosa, and we hiked up the steep washed-out roadway to remote Loma Panda, to see (and buy) some of the most innovative pottery in Nicaragua.
One of the cool PfP pins, handmade in San Juan de Oriente.
At every taller (studio) we visited we got our hands dirty—wedging, throwing and handbuilding—as we learned from the artisans and they learned from us. The trip was truly inspiring, plus we each got one of the first PfP pins (made in San Juan de Oriente). On our last night, as we stuffed our bags and suitcases with the pottery we had bought, we all agreed that the brigade had been unforgettable.
Here is a collection of photos from the trip. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge them.
Our first-ever Work Brigade started rebuilding the kiln shed on November 24th. The old termite-ridden shed had already been taken down so we’re moving forward! Click to see pix, and stay tuned for more pics tomorrow.
Potters for Peace is pleased to announce that, due to many requests from our supporters, we are organizing a shorter, more intensive brigade that we are calling a Work Brigade. Our first Work Brigade, which will be 6 days long, will take place from November 22 to 28, 2015.
Description of the trip
This 6-day Work Brigade will build a kiln shed at El Calero, a pottery community near the town of San Juan de Limay. During our 4 days onsite, participants will be welding, measuring, cutting, digging, lifting and engaging in other construction activities.
Cost of trip
Your fee of $950 covers everything except airfare to Nicaragua and personal purchases while there.
Day 1: Arrive in Managua, pickup from airport, brief orientation, dinner and overnight stay in Managua.
Day 2-4: Breakfast, travel 3 1/2 hours by van to El Calero. Each day we will be at El Calero until 4 pm. We will eat dinner and sleep at San Juan de Limay. We will be staying in a community building and sleeping on cots. This is definitely NOT a hotel; the experience will be more like camping out. Transport between El Calero and San Juan de Limay will be by pickup truck.
Santa Rosa is one of the few agrarian co-operatives remaining from the Sandinista era. The co-op was formed in the ’80s by 30 families who had been displaced by the terror and chaos of the insurrection against Somoza and the US involvement. (Remember the Iran-Contra affair?) Today it consists of about 700 people who farm 3000 acres of land. All families must participate in the communal farm. No one can move into Santa Rosa unless they’ve lived therefor six months and have proven their work ethic. The community is far more prosperous than many we visited. We stayed overnight with Consuelo, Isidro and their extended family of potters.
Our home for a night.
Isidro (he throws) and Consuelo (she decorates) trying out a technique one of us showed them. I’ve never met a potter who doesn’t enjoy seeing a new trick.
Where ever we went, the kids picked up clay and joined us. They are not separated from adults as they so often are in the US.
Tia is perhaps the most remarkable person we met. Deaf since birth, she communicates with enthusiasm through gestures and vocalizations. She’s a potter, but prefers taking the family’s work to market to sell. The rest of the family prefers potting to selling, so they leave the market to her. Here she prepares lunch for us. The kitchen is tiny, with a small table and wood stove. Nevertheless, they fed 10 of us bountifully. And they’re using a lot of their own pottery.
Santa Rosa’s pottery. The pot with the green leaves came home with me.
Loma Ponda: On the top of a mountain, an hour from Somoto, about a kilometer from the Honduran border. We travel by pick-up truck because the roads are too bad for the van. Then about a mile’s hike to the top of the mountain because the final road washed out a couple of years ago. Finished pots are carried down this road to market. Says the women: “We have everything that supports us. Animals—pigs, chickens and a cow. The land provides clay and colors. Everything we need is here. God has provided.”
A mile of hiking uphill. Their road washed out a couple of years ago
The view from their workshop. They’re bringing coffee to drink in their own pitcher and mugs.
I’ve been there twice and have seen almost no men. The women say they don’t need them. They also say they are away working in the cities.
Their work is the surprise. They’ll make whatever they see. Visitors bring them magazines; they copy what’s in them. Some work is done on the wheel. Much is hand-build. The colorants come from different local clays. The pieces are burnished, not glazed.
Nicaragua post 2: The resist and smoke decorations of the Ducuale Grande pottery co-operative near Condega. The women use chicken feathers to apply a resist design of clay mixed with ashes on already-fired pieces. The pots are carefully placed back in the kiln and smoked for a few minutes. The clay/ash mix is then washed off, exposing, beneath the slip, red clay that hasn’t been exposed to the fire.
Once-fired pots waiting to be decorated
Using a feather to apply a resist of clay mixed with ashes
Decorated pieces before they’re fired
Smoking in the kiln. The kiln is open on two sides. Pots can be taken in and out from either side.
This is how the kiln is unloaded
After this firing, the resist (ash+clay) is washed off. The resist part stays red; the rest turns darker from exposure to smoke.
Hearty soup with lots of vegetables is a typical (and delicious) Nicaraguan meal. The pots are very low fired, but can hold liquids because they’re burnished. It’s almost worth a trip to Nicaragua to eat a meal like this. . . home cooked food in home cooked pottery.
Ann Schunior, one of the 2014 Brigadistas to Nicaragua, has put together some fabulous posts about the trip. We’re sharing them with your on our blog, about one a week, so keep checking back for more of her insights and pictures! Read on…..
I’m back from 2 weeks in Nicragua with Potters for Peace, where a group of seven American potters shared experiences and techniques with Nicaraguan potters. Benita Romero of La Paz Centro is the most traditional potter we visited. Benita makes comales—a clay pan for cooking tortillas—as the women in her family have for generations. She then taught us to make tortillas the same way she makes the pots—by patting them out with the palm of her hand. We made tortillas and ate them with queso blanco. The comales in the kiln were at least 18” across, though she also makes smaller ones.