Guanajuato 2014

Happy New Year Everyone

I hear the weather has been pretty bad in the UK.  It has also cooled off here and we’ve had some terrific winds, but its settled down for now.

So how do Mexicans celebrate the festive season?  Well very loudly and with great joy!!

The Lady of Guadalupe Festival started the festive season off on December 12.  This celebration began late at night, with people filing up the hill to the church.  They carried images of the Virgin and music abounded, with drumming bands from all over the city, and of course the ubiquitous fireworks going off.  We left at 1am and the celebrations continued throughout the night with fireworks and mortars echoing through the valley.  Another lively Mexican event!

Christmas celebrations really centre around the 24th of December.  We were fortunate to spend it with a Mexican family.  The evening kicked off around 11 pm with traditional songs being sung around the rocking of a baby Jesus, this we were all invited to kiss, before it was placed in the centre of the family’s nativity scene. We shared in a lovely meal of tamales, shrimp patties in a special mole sauce and roast turkey … delicious!

We had our own gringo Christmas and Boxing Day and climbed the local mountain  The Bufa, standing at 8,000 ft. The view of Guanajuato was spectacular. To our surprise our rescue dog Panda made it right to the very top.

Today Jan 6th is Kings Day, Dia de Los Reyes, when the 3 wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus.  Here in Mexico this is the day for children, when they receive their gifts and a special cake in the shape of a wreath, the Rosca de Reyes is eaten. Inside the cake is a doll representing the baby Jesus and this figure symbolises the hiding of the infant Jesus from King Herod’s troops.  Whoever finds the doll must host a party on Dia de la Candelaria in February…. or swallow the doll!!

Another celebration we came across just yesterday was a Pilgrimage of thousands of Caballeros on horses, The Cabalgata.  These men and just a few women, trek for 2 days each year to receive mass at the Cristo Rey, a mountain at the very heart of Mexico 9,000 ft high and topped by a 20 metre statue of Christ.  They are the original descendants of the Cristeros, Catholics that were outlawed by the government in 1927.

Even with all the Christmas festivities I’m still engrossed in learning some more of the local ceramic techniques, and stayed up late one night to fire them.  Soon I’m off to explore the ceramics of Michoacan, but first to the beach for a week ….Bufa cave Bufa Panda Bufa sue kiln N Y eve Pilgramage cristo rey Salida Skull bowl mk 2



Guanajuato Wk 6




Blowtolope Blowtolope facing Chalk art Chicken Jug Craneo bowl Mandela chalk art Martin at work Martin Guevara



I’ve been so busy lately, I just haven’t got around to posting anything.


My quest to work with local artists has been achieved, I’m back to school and learning Spanish, as well as learning to cook traditional dishes with a local chef.

Here are a few things that I have been making with Martin Guevara.  He is a local ceramic artist with an international presence.  He has kindly taken me on and is teaching me the pre hispanic style of working and firing ceramics, particular to the Guanajuato area.

It is only by trying to duplicate this ancient style that I have realised just how very skilled these people were in moulding and shaping such imaginative  forms.   Also imitating the firing technique  using charcoal requires knowledge and skill to know when the temperature is correct, and a certain amount of luck and faith.  We have had both disasters and spectacular success with amazing metallic colouration.

As always there is loads going on here.  Just  recently we had the Madonnari festival.   This originates in Italy with people creating pavement pictures of Madonnas.  It has moved on to include many other subjects a couple of examples here.

Off tonight to see our Lady of Guadalupe festival.   This is a catholic festival fused with Mexican enthusiasm, with I’m told much singing and dancing in native costumes.

Will tell all next time …………………………..

Guanajuato week 4

Another exciting week has flown by….

Cervantino has finished in a blaze of fireworks and it’s time to really get stuck into some creativity.

This week I’ve been on the trail of ceramic artisans, and their methods, as my ceramic tutor has been away doing a masterclass in the US.

I visited a couple of towns where this technique is really important.  Santa Rosa has a large factory and shops with an overwhelming amount of examples, just a couple are highlighted below.  Dolores Hidalgo (isn’t that a great name?) is also a significant centre, as well as being the origin of the Mexican revolution in 1910…..a vibrant and fascinating town.

So many ceramic traditions here.   Majolica or Talavera, brought to Mexico by the Spanish.  It involves glazing the pottery with an opaque white glaze then decorating with bright colours, often depicting scenes of historical or legendary importance.  Skeletons,  flora and fauna  figure highly around here.

Other techniques include Jalisco, Bandera, Petatillo and also Punteado, this is a lovely technique where the glaze is piped on creating wonderful textures.

I am really taken with another technique where the clay is not glazed, but burnished and coloured with clay slips.  It is a pre-hispanic method, and the pieces are not thrown but molded and coiled.  As soon as Martin is back I intend to explore this technique further.

Just when I thought the town was settling down after Cervantino another big celebration came up.  The Day of the Dead was celebrated this weekend.  An important occasion when Mexicans gather with their families to remember their deceased friends and families.

Part of the tradition involves  building ofrendas or altars.  Here in Guanajuato the streets were closed to traffic so people could create fabulous, colourful pictures on the streets, made from marigolds, and dyed flour, salt, beans and rice.  Yet more vibrant inspiring art from this wonderful country.

Look out for what next week brings…..

The locals s Majolica basin sm Majolica ceramic sm g8 street art s day of dead w2

flowers for cemetery s day of dead sm


Guanajuato Wk 2

Well the second week has just flown by.

I now have furniture, and the house is coming together.

I’m starting to get to know the city, its many alleys or callejon, all rising steeply from the centre.   It is a cultural, historical and architectural gem.   So much so that in 1988 it was declared a UNESCO  World Heritage City.

Right now it is just buzzing with visitors from all around the world for the Cervantino Festival.

I have been to see some great music all around the city. Some of the stand out performances were: the Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra in the Theatro Principal, a beautiful art deco building;  Hermanos Carrillo from Veracruz at the spectacular Ex Hacienda de San Gabriel de Barrera and flamenco at the Midi Restaurant in Casa Quattro.

Yesterday I visited the Valenciana silver and gold mine, at one time a 3rd of the worlds silver came from this mine.  It is still producing silver 400 years on and miners from Spain, America, the UK and now Canada still work it.  Cornish miners once worked this mine, and I’m told there is a town not far from here where you can still buy Cornish Pasties, its on my ever increasing list of places to visit.

As an example of the kindness of the Mexicans, I had lunch in the house of Count Valenciana, got chatting to the owner about Mexican food, and now have an invitation to her kitchen and learn how to make some traditional Mexican cuisine.

There is a mixture of art in this city.  Quite a lot of rubbish, as you would expect, but some great silversmiths.  One I met, Catherine Gielis makes beautiful silver jewellery and installations from copper.  There are also some great stone sculptors in the area that work the unusual green and powder pink stone.  Even the sugar sweets are a work of art, more of those and the coming Day of the Dead celebration next week

.Locally carved sculpture Hermanos Carrillo from Veracruz GTO at dawn Basilca of our lady

out on the town GTO tunnel entrance Love this sculpture Don Quxiote stained glass Detail from local pottery














































Guanajuato Week 1

Hi Folks.

As you may know I’m taking some time out from my studio to explore other fields of art and the artists of Mexico.  Look out for my blog on my website, facebook and Ruskin Glass Centre website, 

My adventure started in LA where I hooked up with a friend, picked up a car and started the long drive south.

We drove through both the Mojave and Sonara deserts stopping in Palm Springs and Tuscon Arizona in the US and then through the border at Nogales picking up Highway 15 and heading on down through San Carlos, Alamos, Mazatlan, Tlaquepaque and Guanajuato.

We had many adventures on the way, including getting the opportunity to release baby turtles in the Gulf of Mexico; melting the car seat as temperatures topped out at 108F and some days were just slogging down the highway with the landscape getting greener as we headed south.

Despite many warnings of dangers, bad roads and bandits, without fail we found people extraordinarily friendly and helpful.  The roads were great all the way down and mostly empty.

Finally, last Saturday, we arrived in Guanajuato, having read extensively about the city its location and the wealth of creativity here it has truly blown me away.

The city is hidden away 6,800ft in the mountains, but set in a gorge with houses spilling up either side of the mountains. It is full of beautiful colonial buildings theatres and museums and wonderful parks to relax in shady comfort.

Right now there is the Cervantino Festival going on where artists, dancers, singers, theatre, opera, cinema from around the world gather here for 3 weeks and perform in the spectacular environs of Guanjuato.

I have been welcomed by all I meet and already going to see some great music and theatre as well as several gallery openings.  I have also met a great Ceramist Martin Gurvara who has generously invited me to his studio and given me my first insights into working with ceramics.   This place is just fabulous!!

Take a look at a few of my images,and there are more on my Facebook page.

My first ceramic lesson the way home First view of Guanajuato Alamos street Empty road ahead Cantina wall decor Cool paper sculpture


Just arrived here….2300 miles from LA and many adventures on the way…too numerous to write at the moment. Just recharging the batteries and the story will continue  tomorrow…..

The Adventure Starts!

Have spent the last 4 days in LA running around getting the last things sorted out and shutting up Geoff’s place. Now the trip has started, but leisurely! Today we drive 120 miles down to Palm Springs. Spent a few hours at the museum here that had an amazing collection of art including some fantastic glass from artists that are not the usual suspects for a change. Tomorrow we head off through the Mojave Desert to Tucson, stop the night there then Monday we go through the border to Mexico and stay the night in San Carlos on the Bay of Cortez. After that the plan gets a lot looser…… Anyhow gotta go now the rum punch has just arrived!

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Raunacht Mask

Glass and Stainless Steel

Glass and Stainless Steel

Glass and Stainless Steel

Glass and Stainless Steel

Here’s a couple of images sent to me by a customer.  He has commissioned David Turner a blacksmith in Derbyshire to create the mounting for my Raunacht Mask – ‘Frustration’ I think he’s done a superb job, it really sets it off well.

Tacoma Museum USA

Just had some great news that one of my pieces has been acquired by TacomaMuseum, . Hope to get over to see it sometime!

Frauenau revisited

Frauenau glass museum Rococco Church Frauenau Rike Scholle

Took a short trip to Frauenau last week via Munich. It was a short but busy trip. I shared an excellent lunch with Erwin Eisch who is on great form and looking forward to his one-man exhibition to celebrate the re-opening of the .National Glass Centre at SunderlandUniversity. It was nice to renew old friendships with the guys in the factory that helped me during my Artist in Residence stint. Also had chance to try out the factory vending machine, full of beer!!

The Eisch Gallery was in full swing with its latest exhibition by Rike Scholle. Well worth a look on the Eisch Gallery site. A chance to also meet up with Sissi Ziglsperger a very good friend who oversees a lot of the exhibitions and gallery there.

I also had a chance to meet up with a German collector of my work who has three major pieces. I had to actually go to his home to sign a piece for him on the way back to Munich.

All in all an excellent visit. Maybe back there later this year!