On May 3, I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia for an International Ceramics Encuentro, which went for the whole month of May. My purpose was to get acquainted with Bolivian potters and learn about their art as well as to listen to visitors from other countries.
I invited a kiln technician from Miami to help with private kilns and who had made a Raku kiln to donate. I also invited a lecturer from a Connecticut University. Which was very well received.
There was an emphasis on the recovery of pre-colombian techniques during this meeting. Making music with ceramics, not as musical instruments as we know them, but attempting to reproduce the sounds of nature. This movement is very strong in South America since the museums have opened their collections to musicians. Esteban Valdivia was one of these musicians who presented at the meeting.
Prospecting is absolutely necessary since most potters need to go out and find where to dig their own clay. It made me realize how privileged we are to buy ready pugged bags of clay, any kind we want. Because of the high altitude only low firing work.
During the three weeks I was there, I made strong connections in several cities, I was invited to lecture at four universities, I gave glaze development demos and was constantly available to answer any questions.
Before leaving ABQ, I selected a collection of preferred tools to bring with me to donate. I washed my “hoard” of thirty years and shared them with whoever needed them in Bolivia. I was careful to whom I donated them to, since they are very expensive. The donated tools were very welcomed and the artists were extremely grateful.
This was a great experience where I learned a lot about potter’s concerns in very different circumstances. Sharing knowledge and technology was my main goal. I will be planning another trip in the future. There’s an appalling need for tools, chemicals, frits, and oxides. If anyone is willing to donate please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would welcome anything you can offer.