Intrepid PFP volunteer Elinor Maroney is in the home stretch of her year working with Nicaraguan potters.  The following is excerpted from her full blog post at .

When I arrived at the studio [in La Maysuta] Don Domingo was not there, but the three other potters were….We went up the hill and down the other side to Domingo’s house about 4:00pm and sat and tried to talk till dinner at 7:00pm. They always seem to suspect me and don’t really understand what I can share with them since I can’t talk to them much in Spanish. I know lots of words – and all the words that relate to clay! – but a conversation is very difficult because I can’t hear the words and process them fast enough. Domingo began to write questions for me and that does help.

Don Domingo's house
Don Domingo’s house

It took the kids a few days to warm up to this old lady who can’t talk to them. We did a pottery class this morning in the studio when none of the other potters was around. Probably used quite a bit of their precious hand processed clay, but had a good time – and it broke the ice.

Monday, October 21 already! [Son] Ricardo finally made two small houses in one morning! His usual work is a detailed “castle” with tile roof and many doors and windows – at least three stories tall – and he works on one piece for a full day. His tile roofs are to die for! He uses an umbrella stay sharpened in a certain way and has developed a technique to make the tiles look real – but in miniature. I brought him pictures of houses and churches so he would have a reference. I am so glad he is making smaller pieces. There is no way he can be paid for the time it takes to make one of his creations. And they are so fragile it is hard to transport them.

Ricardo's delicate castle - unfired
Ricardo’s delicate castle – unfired
Ricardo's charming smaller houses - unfired
Ricardo’s charming smaller houses – unfired

We have added a new low fire technique – Obvara Raku Firing. I found it on the Ceramic Arts Daily web site.  A pottery teacher in Texas has discovered an ancient European technique where the red hot pot is dipped in a solution of flour, sugar, yeast and water to make a piece look antique. It was developed to seal the pots so they are more water resistant.  It seems to be the newest American raku technique….Finally the day of the firing arrived! We filled an old barrel with already fired pieces adding sawdust and other organic materials, etc. Then we cleaned out an old bread oven kiln so we could pull pieces out and put them into sawdust, the flour/sugar/yeast mixture or touch them with horsehair or feathers.

Pablo helps take hot pots from the flaming kiln.
Pablo helps take hot pots from the flaming kiln.
The furiously burning kiln
The furiously burning kiln