• Carrin Robertson

Lake Atitlan: Ceramics

Imagine travelling on the back of a pick-up truck along the edge of a ridiculously beautiful lake which has volcanoes all around, to go and source handmade ceramics...

Yup, that's one part of my job now!

Absolutely nuts.

The team we meet do




of ceramic production all under one roof: from raw materials to designing moulds for the ceramics, actual mould making for a run of products, drying out pottery in the sun, painting designs meticulously by hand- which are first sketched out on paper and along with the mould making, baking in the (not very big) oven at over 1000 degrees celsius for 8 hours, cooling for another at least 8 hours and then ready to pack and send to out to us.

We're lucky to really see the amount of time, work and passion that goes into these crafts. There's no machinery, nothing is mass produced- everything is made by hand, with care.

At UPAVIM, what we don't make in house, we source from Artisans who are also Fair Trade. I meet the owner and he shows the colours they can achieve with the paints and baking process, so we can design our own ceramics, or buy from his existing designs which can also be modified. I've never been involved in ceramic design before, but looks like I will be- and in a country like this, there is so much inspiration around.

I buy one of his kitcsh cat mugs, (leopard print of course) and a really beautiful geometric plate. It's a great feeling to be able to buy again directly from the hands of the artisans, knowing who made it and to be a part of their process.

(Interestingly, a few weeks after visiting the lake, I went to the Museo Popol Vuh (Popol Vuh is the book which depicts the Mayan story of creation) in Guatemala City, and there were lots of ancient Mayan ceramics, they used pottery for various ceremonies. Some pots and urns were really similar to the current day ones pictured in the ceramicists workshop, with the spikes protruding from them. Mugs for cacao drinking ceremonies show scenes from the Popol Vuh of Gods and of Princesses of the Underworld- they're so intricate. In Northern Guatemala, the Maya even used ceramics for their burial urns, the bones and some gifts are placed in a huge urn characterised with the head of a nocturnal animal, for example a Jaguar, which is a symbol of the Mayan Underworld.)

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