Our Water Filter Production Training Course was a big success!

Posted by Patty Osborne

In September, 2018, Potters for Peace, in partnership with the Center for Affordable Water & Sanitation Technology (CAWST), offered our first Ceramic Water Filter (CWF) Production Course at the Adamah Clay Studios in Dodgeville, WI. It was a huge success!

Eleven people from all over the world came together to spend 12 days learning about water-born illnesses, how to make and test ceramic water filters, and how to market and distribute them. Participants are working or planning to work in Nepal, China, the Ivory Coast, the Philippines, Portugal, Puerto Rico and Indonesia.

To give the participants hands-on experience making filters, we set up a mini-filter production facility. The students’ filter-making experience began with digging local clay, grinding it in a hammermill and then screening it. They then learned about burnout materials such as sawdust, paper and rice hulls. Burnout material is mixed with the filter clay and will “burn out” during firing, leaving the clay porous and able to filter water. The students mixed different clays and burnout material mixtures in small batches and then tested them to compare porosity, required firing temperatures and durability.

The best clay recipe was then mixed in a large quantity and divided into 15-pound quantities, each of which was enough to make a filter. Filters were made by pressing the clay between aluminum molds in a filter press. The filters were then finished and left to dry. Once dry, a batch of 30 filters was fired in the wood-fired Mani kiln that had been constructed in a previous workshop.

Once the filters were fired, colloidal silver was applied and extensive tests for flow and water quality (including bacterial tests) were performed. The remainder of the course was spent discussing marketing, education, distribution and factory set-up procedures.

Below are some photos from the course. Click on a thumbnail to see a larger version.

Our instructors were Robert Pillers, the Potters for Peace CW filter coordinator, scientists Kaira Wagoner and Justine Rayner, and Lisa Mitchell, an education specialist from CAWST. They spent almost two years developing the course. Funding for course development came from a grant through the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters Ministry Foundation.

Many other donors, including the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters and Bethel Horizons in Dodgeville, Wisconsin helped with scholarship money to allow all 11 participants to attend the course. We are grateful to everyone who donated!

Potters for Peace plans to offer this course again in the future. Course details will be posted on our website.


Let’s give the potters of Nicaragua some extra support!

Posted by Patty Osborne

If you’ve been following the news lately you’ll know that there is a lot of political unrest in Nicaragua. Roadblocks and protests are preventing food and fuel from reaching the markets and the potters are not able to sell their work through the usual channels. Potters for Peace would like to make an extra effort to support the potters that we work with in Nicaragua so please make an extra donation this year.

Here’s how to donate: http://pottersforpeace.org/?page_id=43


Venue finalized for our first Ceramic Water Filter Course

Posted by Patty Osborne

We are please to announce that we have finalized the venue for our first-ever hands-on Ceramic Water Filter Course which will take place from September 24 – October 5, 2018.

The new venue is Adamah Clay Studios in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, USA. We have collaborated with Adamah in the past and have found it to be an excellent facility that is also in a beautiful rural location.

The Adamah Campus

Potters for Peace, in partnership with educational specialists at the Center for Affordable Water & Sanitation Technology (CAWST), has developed this two-week intensive course which will be an excellent opportunity to learn how to establish a water filter factory from the ground up, improve an existing factory, or prepare to work globally to improve water quality.

The course is designed  to

  • Train and support existing factory owners
  • Attract and guide new ceramic filter factory startups
  • Promote collaboration and communication between members of the filter community
  • Improve filter quality on a global scale, thus helping to reduce the global burden of diarrheal disease

Filters being loaded into a kiln at the Filtron Factory in Nicaragua

By the end of the training, participants will be able to demonstrate what is involved in high quality ceramic filter production and explain what is involved in starting and maintaining a successful filter factory.

The course will be offered in English and maximum class size is 12.

Tuition includes all meals during the course, plus lodging and local transportation in Nicaragua. Participants are responsible for their own transportation (airfare) to Nicaragua.

TUITION FEE: $3500US (includes lodging, meals, and local transportation). A limited number of partial scholarships will be available.

LOCATION: Adamah Clay Studios, Dodgeville, Wisconsin, USA

For more information, visit our Water Filter Training Page.

Download the course description here.

To register, download the registration form here.


For registration, payment and scholarship information, please contact:
Jennifer Mally, executivedirector@pottersforpeace.org

For questions regarding course content, please contact:
Robert Pillers, robert@pottersforpeace.org


Signs of Life: Images formed from Words and Clay

Posted by Patty Osborne

Gerri Frager’s book, Signs of Life: Images formed from Words and Clay, has just been published by Pottersfield Press and Gerri has generously offered to donate her royalties from book sales to Potters for Peace!

Gerri has spent much of her life working with critically ill infants and children and integrating the arts into patient care and education. Poetry and pottery have each been a sanctuary during tough times as has noticing the everyday beauty found in nature. In Signs of Life: Images formed from Words and Clay, the author merges these passions to create a most unique and insightful book.

Each poem is accompanied by an image of pottery created by Frager, one reflected in and mirroring the other. The first section of the book focuses on her gratitude for the small and powerful gifts found in the natural world followed by poems and images involving patients, families and health professionals. “Miscellaneous Meanderings” form an eclectic section with random subjects as varied as her experiences listening to music to the loss of a neighbour’s dog. “Born of the Personal” involves life-changing experiences ranging from surgery to seeking meaning in the constellations of the night sky.

Signs of Life is a powerful exploration into matters of loss and love through poetry and pottery and the life experiences of a medical professional who has dedicated her life to healing and comforting those she works with.

The sounds like an interesting and beautiful book. Copies can be obtained from Indigo Books.

We did it (almost)!

Posted by Patty Osborne

With the help of local residents and seven volunteers from the US and Canada, we managed to build 15 catenary arch kilns in 17 days in the village of San Juan de Oriente and the three final (and larger) kilns were in progress. These kilns primarily went to those who do not own their own kilns and are renting kiln space from relatives or neighbors.

Here’s a video that Meghan, one of our volunteers, made. If only we could really work this quickly!

We finished fifteen small kilns by the deadline of April 15 and we had a good start on three large kilns but on April 18 protests in many Nicaraguan cities halted our progress. The political situation has calmed down enough for us to be able to complete the final kilns.

Here are some shots of the big kilns with most of the brickwork done. Then we had to do a ton of ironwork.

Thanks to everyone who supported us in person or in spirit. These kilns will make a big difference to the San Juan de Oriente potters. Also thanks to FASOC (The Support Fund for Civil Society in Nicaragua)  and APRODIN (Association of Promoters and Defenders of the Indigenous Rights of Nicaragua) who worked with us on the project.

Update on San Juan de Oriente Kiln Blitz

Posted by Patty Osborne

As of April 11, our intrepid band of gringos and Nicaraguans have completed 9 Dugui kilns—only 6 more to go. Work is also going well on the three big kilns. Some of our gringo volunteers have left but others have arrived so the work is still going strong.

Here are more photos of this building marathon (click on a photo to see a larger version):

Thanks to all the people who are helping us reach our goal!

Kiln-Building Blitz in San Juan de Oriente

Posted by Patty Osborne

Our intrepid Nicaraguan staff, Robert and Alvaro, have launched a kiln-building blitz in the village of San Juan de Oriente. In partnership with two Nicaraguan NGOs—FASOC (The Support Fund for Civil Society in Nicaragua)  and APRODIN (Association of Promoters and Defenders of the Indigenous Rights of Nicaragua)—Potters for Peace will oversee the building of 18 kilns before April 15, 2018!

The kilns are being built by three of the most experienced builders in Nicaragua and by the recipients of the kilns, plus several brigadistas who have responded to Robert’s email and Facebook calls for help. Fifteen of the kilns will be built using an arch laid over a barrel, a design that we are calling the Doogie kiln. The other three kilns are larger and will use a hybrid design that takes elements from other kiln designs.

(Click on a thumbnail to see a larger image)

In the town of San Juan de Oriente, 95% of the population produces pots in about 475 family workshops. These kilns will make a big difference to the whole town.

If you are interested in participating in our kiln-building blitz before the April 15 deadline, contact Robert at robert@pottersforpeace.org. You will be responsible for your travel, accommodation and food expenses, but there will be no other brigadista fees.

Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project!

Giving Tuesday: A great time to make a donation

Posted by Patty Osborne

The potters of Loma Panda.In honour of Giving Tuesday, we hope you will consider making a donation to Potters for Peace. We rely on individual donations to fund our work with the potters of Nicaragua and with water filter factories around the world.

You help is greatly appreciated.

Donate online through Paypal
Send a check
Potters for Peace
P.O. Box 2214
Boulder, CO 80306




Join our January Brigade

Posted by Patty Osborne

mud for websiteWe are pleased to announce the dates for our January 2018 Brigade.

From January 20 to Feb 3, brigadistas will travel throughout rural Nicaragua, visiting pottery workshops, learning about our ceramic filter project, buying pots and getting their hands dirty.

The cost is $1800US which covers all travel, accommodation and meals within Nicaragua.

Registration is now open. Visit our Brigade Page for more information. You can download an orientation packet and a registration form there.

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience the beauty of Nicaragua and the warmth its people!

Adamah’s Whimsical Weekend Workshop

Posted by Patty Osborne

Six participants joined potters Migdalia de Sorcorro Perez Munoz and Angela Munoz Hernandez of Loma Panda, Nicaragua, for a two-day workshop making innovative ceramic figures. The workshop was held at Adamah Art Studio at Bethel Horizons in Wisconsin.


Midgalia and Angela demonstrated how to make their signature dolls (including mermaids!) with movable arms and legs as well as lizards, armadillos, frogs, turtles, and even some imaginary critters.

Working on animal parts (left) and assembling a doll (right).

The participants were fascinated with the process and were eager to try it out themselves.They spent time collaborating with each other, sharing ideas and creating their own unique figures. Most of the participants did not speak Spanish but they found a common language in clay and creativity.


Getting ready to cook gallo pinto and s’mores. Yum!

Migdalia and Angela also built a small wood-fired stove on which they cooked gallo pinto (rice and beans), which is a Nicaraguan staple, and s’mores, which, to some, are a North American staple!

Migdalia and Angela examining the soda-fired pots.

Migdalia and Angela examining the soda-fired pots.

After the workshop, Migdalia and Angela stayed at Adamah and attended a Soda Firing Workshop with Guillermo Cuellar and Ric Cox. In Loma Panda, Migdalie and Angela use colored slips for decoration and they burnish their work to a high shine before firing it once in a small, wood-fired kiln. Being able to participate in a soda firing was an excellent opportunity for them to try out new techniques that they will no doubt adapt to their needs once they get home.

big group

The soda-firing gang.

Loma Panda is one of the workshops that the annual Potters for Peace brigade visits. Here’s a great video about the potters of Loma Panda, the area in which they live, and their thoughts on visiting Adamah:

Join our August Work Brigade

Posted by Patty Osborne

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.

The potters of Loma Panda.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 22  Travel to Loma Panda
  • Aug 23 – 28 Rebuilding roof in Loma Panda with a mid-week break to the Somoto Canyons
  • Aug 29  Return to Managua
  • Aug 30 Departure day

Download our orientation packet.
Download our registration form.
Contact Robert Pillers (robert@pottersforpeace.org) for further information about brigade activities.

Water filters finally make it to Camaguey, Cuba

Posted by Patty Osborne
Ron Rivera in one of the many countries he provided technical assistance for setting up filter factories.

Ron Rivera in one of the many countries he provided technical assistance for setting up filter factories.

It took more than a decade to produce water filters in Camaguey, Cuba, even though the province has a long tradition of making ceramics. In 2000, two Cuban representatives visited Ron Rivera in Nicaragua, learned all they could about filters and filter factories, and returned to Cuba to get things going. Then bureaucracy got in the way.

Read the full article at Havana Times. Here are links:

http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=124606   english

http://www.havanatimes.org/sp/?p=122768  spanish

Visit our exhibition and sale at NCECA Portland

Posted by Patty Osborne

If you are attending NCECA or if you are in the Portland area between March 22 and March 24, be sure to visit the Potters for Peace show!


Tea bowls. Left, Warren McKenzie. Right, Scott Frankenberger.

Tea bowls. Left, Warren McKenzie. Right, Scott Frankenberger.

An exhibition and sale of work by over 50 artists from the US and Nicaragua.

Wednesday, March 22 – Friday, March 24
10am – 5pm daily
Eastlund Hotel, 1021 NE Grand Avenue
6th floor, Perle & Galena Room
right across the street from NCECA
Closing Reception
Friday, March 24
5pm – 8pm

Proceeds from this sale will support our work around the world.

Thanks to all the artists who donated their work.

Brigade 2017: Working and Playing

Posted by Patty Osborne

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.

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.

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.

Relaxing in Somoto Canyon.

Relaxing in Somoto Canyon.


Brigade 2017: We got ‘er done!

Posted by Patty Osborne

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!


—submitted by Robert Pillers

Brigade 2017 report from Ducuale

Posted by Patty Osborne

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.


Our annual brigade will help out after heavy rains damage Ducuale’s kiln shed

Posted by Patty Osborne

Before we had solidified our plans for our annual Brigade, we got a call from the potters of Ducuale who told us that heavy rains had knocked down their kiln shed. The shed is a simple wooden structure that holds up a clay tile roof. The potters at Ducuale managed to prop the roof back up, but it’s in a precarious state and needs to be replaced before the next rainy season.

kiln shed at Ducuale

Left: kiln shed propped up with random poles. Right: closeup of damage to beam and post.

XXXXX of Ducuale decorates a pot using a mixture of slip and ash.

Doña Wilma Guavara of Ducuale decorates a pot using a mixture of slip and ash.

Because of Ducuale’s urgent need, we have decided to change our Annual Brigade, which usually tours around the country visiting the small potteries that Potters for Peace works with, into a partial “work brigade.” This means we will spend about half our time rebuilding the Ducuale kiln shed (and learning about their unique method of decorating their pots), and the rest of the time touring around and visiting other potteries as well as the town of San Juan de Oriente, the “village of pottery,” where it seems like every inhabitant is a potter.

If you want to help out at Ducuale AND meet potters in the remote Nicarguan countryside, you will really enjoy this brigade. You’ll find all the details here.

How do we make our plans a reality?

Posted by Patty Osborne
peters place

Our annual meeting was held at the home of Peter Jackson (our chair) in rural Wisconsin.

The board of Potters for Peace has ambitious plans for expanding the Water Filter Project, and at our annual meeting in late October we brainstormed ways that we can make these plans a reality. We were helped in our deliberations by Gary Funk, who has experience with building strong boards and increasing fundraising.

Gary feels that our mission is meaningful and our work is of interest to the public and is therefore fundable. The key is to make stronger connections with donors and funders, and a good portion of our 3-day meeting was devoted to brainstorming ways to do this.

Gary pointed out that philanthropy is an integral component of economic development and Potters for Peace is part of this economic developments. Our work is not charity—we don’t make people dependent. A donation to Potters for Peace is an investment in economic development and empowering people.

In the coming months we will be stepping up our fundraising so if you’ve never donated to us, now would be a great time. If you’ve donated before, please consider increasing your donation this year.

Make your donation here.


Inspirational Words from Peter Seeger

Posted by Patty Osborne

In 1977 we sent Pete Seeger a standard fundraising letter and we received this letter back. Pete’s letter was posted on our blog back in Feb 2014 but we’ve brought it back in the hopes that his words might offer inspiration and guidance in these troubled times.


Spotlight on a Factory: Filtrao Factory, Cote D’Ivoire

Posted by Patty Osborne

The Filtrao Factory (filtrao.org) was established by Kouakou Ahuié in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire on September 15, 2010. Ahuié started the project as part of the activities of an association called N-CHRIST, of which he is the founder and chairman.  The Filtrao filter project is a partnership between UNICEF and N-CHRIST.

ivory-coastAccording to Ahuié, their biggest initial challenges were figuring out the correct dosage of colloïdal silver to use, and finding someone qualified to build an appropriate kiln. Colloïdal silver is applied to the finished filter in order to provide an extra level of protection from bacteria. Filtrao asked for help from Mary Kay Jackson, who worked with Methodist Development Relief Services and Pure Home Water—two charitable organizations that focus on bringing potable water to the rural poor in Ghana. Mary Kay provided Filtrao with a formula that solved the issue, leading to certification of the Filtrao filter by the Cote D’Ivoire’s Institute of National Public Hygiene.

When Filtrao could not find anyone in Cote D’Ivoire who was qualified to build a kiln, Manny Hernandez, the designer of the downdraft kiln typically constructed for filter production, came from the US and built a “Mani” kiln for them. Now production seems to be going along smoothly at Filtrao.

Last year the Filtrao factory produced 3000 ceramic water filters, many of which were distributed in villages in Northern Cote D’Ivoire.

Current challenges for Filtrao include marketing and distribution of filters. However after completing a survey in our first Ceramic Pot Filter Community Newsletter, The Filtrao Factory was randomly selected as the winner of the US $500 Potters for Peace survey-participant award. Potters for Peace requested that the money be spent on factory improvement and/or filter marketing and promotion.

Filtrao spent a portion of the money on translation of a promotional video into French for use in a new marketing campaign.  In the video Fernando Mazariegos, the inventor of the ceramic pot water filter, talks about the origins, production and benefits of the filter.  Filtrao plans to put the remainder of the funds towards creation of a locally produced video about the filters made in Cote D’Ivoire.

Sharing skills, a guiding principle

Posted by Patty Osborne

Here’s a recent video showing a couple of excellent Nicaraguan pottery teachers sharing their skills with other communities. The video was made by young Nicaraguan journalism graduates. The “strong arm” that Douglas is using to help him center and open the clay while throwing was designed, built and donated by Marc Geiger (marcsstudio.com) of Fairmont, New York. It is primarily used in the throwing of large filter receptacles (over 2 feet high) because it speeds up production and reduces wear and tear on the bodies of the potters.

Sharing skills and equipment is a guiding principle of Potters for Peace.

The 2016 Brigade: my best brigade so far

Posted by Patty Osborne

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.

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.

[foogallery id=”1741″]



Clean Water for Paraguay: You Can Help!

Posted by Patty Osborne

paraguayIn order to provide access to clean drinking water to over 100,000 indigenous villagers in Paraguay, PFP is partnering with Global Giving to help the TEMHA filter factory accomplish a critically-needed scale up. Please SUPPORT US!

We MUST complete our goal with GlobalGiving to continue partnering with them, so please DONATE! Don’t forget to SHARE!

The money raised for Project for Paraguay will allow the filter factory there to expand so that it can provide access to safe drinking water for over 100,000 indigenous villagers in Paraguay.

Check it out here: https://goto.gg/24052

Clay is our vehicle, not our destination: a message from our Nicaraguan Director

Posted by Patty Osborne

Two years ago, Potters for Peace lost the lease on our office in Managua. Rather than search for another office, we built a small workshop and storage area adjacent to our house in Ticuantepe. Our fully-equipped workspace has allowed us to make the potters’ wheels, worktables, and other tools and equipment our amigas need to improve their work.

Robert at the wheel.

Robert at the wheel.

Just over a year ago, we also set up a small pottery workspace with the intent of delving deeper into the unique pottery techniques practiced in Nicaragua. Immediately upon throwing a few pieces, I remembered how empowering it feels to mold a shapeless piece of clay to one’s will. How many times have I seen our amigas take this sense of empowerment outside their pottery workshops into their families and communities? It is so satisfying to watch their sense of self-determination grow and flourish!

The very poor often have not developed their planning skills simply because, as the Bible says, “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Planning for tomorrow is a luxury when you are struggling for your family’s survival today. However, ­pottery-making is a long, multi-step process. Digging and processing the clay, forming the piece, decorating, burnishing, firing, selling it: all require planning and foresight. The meditative, centering, contemplative nature of the work naturally generates a habit of focus and reflection. Entering the marketplace to sell your wares creates confidence in your ability to put a plan into action. With the constant practice of our craft, a new mindset blossoms, giving all of us the power to improve the future of our families, communities, and world.

Fortunately, our organization has inherited a unique working philosophy and methodology based upon Ron Rivera’s 40 years of experience working and living in solidarity with the poor. We do not offer charity to our amigas; we offer them empowerment and control of their own lives. The craft of pottery is an amazing vehicle for self-expression and self-development, but it is the method, not the goal.

Clay is our vehicle, not our destination. Potters for Peace is unique in the world in harnessing the power of our craft to bring our amigas to an habitual process of focus, vision, empowerment, self-determination and action that improves not only their own lives, but those of their children and wider communities. Thank you so much for supporting this important work.

—Robert Pillers

This article was published in our March 2016 newsletter. To read a PDF version of the entire newsletter click here.

How Profit Can Power a Clean Water Program

Posted by Patty Osborne

Here’s an interesting model for a successful ceramic water filter distribution program.

ecofiltro-jar-2Like many social enterprises, Ecofiltro started out wanting to help the rural poor in Guatemala and elsewhere in Central America get access to clean water without much thought to making money. But CEO Philip Wilson soon realized that changing the entity into a for-profit company actually helped him realize his social goals. Want to know more? Watch a video, listen to the podcast, or read a transcript here.

Progress around the world

Posted by Patty Osborne

Here’s a summary of news about established and prospective filter factories around the world:

  • Filters are now being made at Federal University in Lafia Nasarawa State, Nigeria.
  • Edgar from the filter factory in Chiapas, Mexico has met up with an organization is going to help them get the filter certified in Mexico, and may help them apply for a grant in the near future. This contact was first made by Kaira (our Filter Project Coordinator) and her partner, Reynaldo, when they presented at WWF7 in Korea.
  • Two other groups are also investigating factory start-ups in Mexico.
  • PFP has been contacted by two groups that want to start factories in southern Sudan. They have received introductory materials and have been put in touch with one another.
  • Three groups are now pursuing possible filter factories in India.
  • Another contact from the WWF7 is pursuing the possibility of a new factory in Kenya.
  • A Peace Corps volunteer is interested in filters for the Comoro Islands.
  • Our partners at Potters Without Borders are helping to start factories in Guinea Bissau and in Rwanda.

A Tale of Two Nicaraguan Piggy Banks

Posted by Patty Osborne

kilnClay piggy banks are a tradition in Nicaragua and it is not unusual to see an entire kiln load of them. I was told that Nica children receive clay piggy banks (without holes in the bottom) on their birthdays and at the end of the year they break them, spend the money, and are given a new one. Sounds like a potter’s dream, doesn’t it?


I bought my first Nicaraguan piggy bank (the one of the left above) from a woman named Maria who lives on the side of a hill, on the way to the pottery at Loma Ponda(a regular stop for the annual Potters for Peace brigade. Maria has three jobs: farming, making clay piggy banks (the only clay work she does), and praying for the dead. About five years ago we visited Maria in the tiny house that her father built and that she shares with her sister, Marta. Maria had just unloaded the barrel kiln that Potters for Peace had recently built for her and there were about a dozen piggy banks set out on a table. Each of Maria’s rough and ready pigs had their own charm and I chose this one because of the enigmatic expression on its face. Before she got a barrel kiln, Maria had fired her banks, one at a time, in the wood-burning cook stove in her kitchen but now that she had a kiln, she could fire several banks at a time and do it outside which is much healthier. This spring I got an update on Maria and Marta from Robert Pillers, the Nicaragua Director for Potters for Peace:

“Maria and Marta’s house fell in and a government program built them a new one. When we went there late last year I noticed that they were back to firing their pottery in the kitchen stove. In the past I had noticed an asthma inhaler hanging from a string from the ceiling so I said to myself, this can’t continue. So on the January brigade we built them a new barrel kiln, and when we went back in February, they had fired it and said they were happy with it.”

I bought the larger piggy bank (on the right above) from Ducuale Grande, a communal workshop where a group of women work together on throwing, handbuilding, burnishing and decorating, so that no one pot is made by a single person. For decoration they  use a slip-resist technique that Ann Schunior described in a previous post. On my last visit there, a voluptuous, polka-dotted piggy bank kept watching me as I walked around the little showroom. The look on its face reminded me of my sister’s Labradoodle dog, Cedar, but I still tried hard not to buy it because it seemed too large and fragile to make it home in one piece. In the end I succumbed and that piggy bank travelled from Nicaragua to Toronto (Ontario), then on to Moncton (New Brunswick) and finally to Vancouver (BC) without even getting scratched.

Now the two piggies, one humble and unassuming and one more sophisticated but still a bit needy, sit together on the windowsill in my kitchen and watch me live life as I know it. I look at them often but I still can’t figure out what they’re thinking.

Sad news about Peder Kolind, founder of Mi Museo

Posted by Patty Osborne
Peder Kolind, founder of Mi Museo in Granada, Nicaragua.

Peder Kolind, founder of Mi Museo in Granada, Nicaragua.

It’s a sad time in Nicaragua as Danish-born Peder Kolind, who established Mi Museo (among his many other projects), passes.

funeral-pots_0Mi Museo, houses Kolind’s pri­vate col­lec­tion of pre-Columbian pot­tery and arti­facts, including fertility icons, jew­el­ery, volup­tuous funeral urns and pots cov­ered with faded paint­ing. Peder Kolind also ran Carita Feliz, a non-profit group that works with under­priv­i­leged chil­dren in Nicaragua.

Read a touching tribute to him here: http://community.nicaraguadispatch.com/2015/06/19/remembering-peder-kolind/

Join our first-ever Fall Work Brigade!

Posted by Patty Osborne

truckPotters 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.

Tentative Itinerary

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.

Day 5: Return to Managua.

Day 6: Airport and home.

Download our information packet.
Download and fill out our registration form.
Contact Abby Silver (abby@pottersforpeace.org) for further information.

Don’t miss this chance to get your hands dirty while you experience life in a tiny Nicarguan pueblo!

Watch “Road to Hope” on Youtube

Posted by Patty Osborne

Now everyone can watch “Road to Hope,” the heartwarming video about how and why Potters for Peace was established and how the people of Nicaragua have benefited from our help. It includes interviews with the founders of PfP, with the late Ron Rivera and with some of the many potters that we work with. We have been selling copies of this video from our online store but recently the video was uploaded to Youtube. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

Here’s the link:

New Filter Factory in India

Posted by Patty Osborne

contest winnersMichelle Zucker, a student at Penn State, and Emily Saunders, a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, have won US$10,000 and up to US$25,000 of in-kind staff time to support implementation of a project in India that will reactivate an abandoned factory as a water filter factory and a start-up community factory, providing migrant workers with access to clean water, self-grown food and native materials for building shelters. Michelle and Emily worked closely with Potters for Peace in preparing their contest entry and they will be collaborating with us on the implementation of this project.

The contest was sponsored by AECOM, a company that works to create, enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments.

Help us do more of this kind of work by donating to our CLEAN WATER FOR ALL CAMPAIGN: https://fundly.com/clean-water-for-all.

Join our Fundraising Campaign: Clean Water for All

Posted by Patty Osborne

We’ve just launched a special fundraising campaign that we’re calling CLEAN WATER FOR ALL and we hope that everyone out there will help us spread the word.

using a ceramic water filterFunds from this campaign will go toward establishing more filter factories throughout the world and sending a delegate to the 2015 World Water Forum in Korea so that we can raise the profile of the mighty Ceramic Water Filter.

To donate follow this link: https://fundly.com/clean-water-for-all.

OR you can use the DONATE button on the right and include the note “Clean Water for All.”

OR you can send us an old-fashioned check and we’ll add it to our total. Checks should be made payable to Potters for Peace and mailed to:
Abby Silver, US Director,
PO Box 2214, Boulder CO

Please spread the word about our campaign to take over the world, one water filter at a time!

Cambodia filter factory fulfilling Ron Rivera’s dream

Posted by Patty Osborne

A brief report by Ron’s daughter, Ana Gabriela Power, about a visit she made to a factory in Cambodia:

Today I visited one of the water filter factory in Cambodia, the one that was named in memory of Ron. The factory is a social enterprise, and goes from manufacturing the filter to marketing it to the families and linking lower income families with micro-credit.


Sculpture of Ron Rivera.

Sculpture of Ron Rivera.

This is a version of what Ron dreamed the filter business would look like: although they were originally set up by an NGO, now they run as a business. At the factory there is a sculpture of Ron’s face that made me smile. Apparently it was made using the same technique that Cambodians use to commemorate kings.

For more information about this enterprise, visit www.hydrologichealth.com.

Tanzanian Filter Factory Receives National Honor

Posted by Patty Osborne
Bruno Sanga explains the manufacturing process.

Bruno Sanga explains the manufacturing process.

The Tanzanian NGO known as MSABI ( Maji Safi Kwa Afya Bora  or Safe Water for Better Health) is pleased to announce that their water filter project was honoured at the 2012 National Uhuru Torch run, which celebrates freedom and light. The torch event was held in Ifakara at the Jongo Primary School on Sunday the 15th of July. MSABI received significant attention, and a large crowd arrived as MSABI office manager Hija Choya provided a project history and a general overview of MSABI activities. This was followed by our pottery manager, Mr Bruno Sanga, who explained the manufacturing process. Government officials were impressed with the filter pot and the quality of filtered water. MSABI ran out of pamphlets, and received dozens of requests for filter purchases. The Tembo Filter will sell for TZS17,000 (AUD $10.75) and includes a tap, cleaning brush and instruction sheet.

The filter fits into a standard 20L water collection bucket, and there is also a special 30L bucket that can be purchased separately. The women’s pottery group has also produced a prototype clay receptacle which will store around 50L and sell for around TZS10,000 (AUD $6.25). We already have an inventory of 250 pots ready for release and expect to have between 400-500 ready for August 8th (“nane nane”) an important public holiday for Tanzanians. The facility will have capacity to manufacture 250-300 filters each month. Distribution will be through local retailers who will purchase wholesale (TZS13,000) from the pottery factory. Filters will also be sold direct to the public from the filter factory at the retail price (TZS17,000). We are busy preparing marketing materials and are excited to finally (after 3 long years) releasing our local product for the benefit of the local community.

MSABI is a medium- sized NGO that works in rural Tanzania on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) projects.

PfP at NCECA 2012

Posted by Patty Osborne
Board members and volunteers staff our tables at NCECA 2012.

Board members and volunteers staff our tables at NCECA 2012.

At the Potters for Peace tables at NCECA 2012 in Seattle, board members and volunteers spent the weekend fundraising and exchanging ideas and information with the many people who visited us. This is always a good fundraising opportunity and to those of you who supported us by entering the raffle (for a ceramic water filter), buying a t-shirt or a piece of Nicaraguan jewellery, or making a donation, thanks.

It was great to make personal contact with our supporters and to spread the word (in person) about our work with Nicaraguan potters, our brigades and our filter projects. See you at NCECA 2013!

For those of you whose eyes lit up when we described our unforgettable brigades, check our website in September for the dates and application form for our 2013 brigade.

Ceramic water filter: almost a conspiracy?

Posted by Patty Osborne

Here’s a different take on our water filters. Some misinformation but at least he makes us smile.

Not sure that this fellow will be able to find a local pottery shop to make him an unglazed flower pot without the hole in the middle that he can use as a water filter, but he’s correct in his evaluation of the best qualities of ceramic water filters: they’re effective and inexpensive to make.