Lenca pottery: a handmade miracle

Lenca pottery: a handmade miracle
November 10, 2016 Heartisania


This amazing pottery is easy to spot on every Central American market – and is hard to forget. Impressive quality of craftsmanship, and unusual and unexpectedly modern geometric pattern on the raven black clay combine with bizarre forms to leave a lasting impression.

Conical pots, curved bowls looking like mangrove leaves floating down the river, and vases resembling hollowed-out pumpkins, have for many centuries been a part of authentic culture of Lenca – an indigenous tribe, living in the central area and southwest of Honduras and the east of El Salvador

 Despite the firm grasp of tradition, Lenca’s craftsmen constantly improve their designs and patterns, searching for new forms and styles of ornamentation, fearlessly adapting ancient techniques to the spirit of our times. That’s why any Lenca’s handiwork is a natural complement to urban minimalistic interiors: simple geometrical shapes combined with monochromatic palette are sure to find favour with connoisseurs of Bauhaus and stylish constructivism.

Traditionally, Lenca pottery is made by women, preserving the secrets of their crafts from pre-Columbian times. The techniques are carefully passed from mother to daughter, unchanged since their first invention. Each piece begins with a piece of clay that requires a back-breaking effort to acquire. First, the craftsman undertakes a 2-hour walk to the mountains; where the challenge is to find clay of precisely the right colour or even two: the craftsmen who create bicoloured ceramics, search for yellow and white, or black and white. On returning to the village, the craftsman starts to prepare the clay for modelling, adding water and hours of scrupulous kneading to give it precisely the right consistency and thickness. And then, the miracle begins…

When the piece is ready, it goes into a low-temperature oven fired with pine wood. Here, the pottery will cure for over 22 days, acquiring its distinctive “smoked” hues and classic vintage look. Next, the pottery is given a thorough polish with a soft stone to add a special matt finish to its surface.

Lenca handmade pottery crafts

Comment (1)

  1. Natalie 10 months ago

    How many times we wished there was an alternative to hand carring a piece of lovely local handmade ceramic from Latin America? Glad there is now a way to order on line and receive at home without worrying it will get damaged in transit!

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