ARTISAN PROFILE: Heron Martinez Mendoza
After trying various lines of work, Heron Martinez Mendoza (1918-1990) reluctantly joined his family’s pottery business and began by creating utilitarian pieces. The story goes that one of his early pieces, a water vessel with handles designed to minimize breaking off, was so popular that the townspeople lined up at the kiln to buy them.
This success led him to make pots and planters which, over time, became more and more creative. Martínez created unique trees of life, whimsical zoomorphic pieces, elaborate churches, wall plaques and more. His designs incorporated animals, mermaids and circus performers. He went through several phases where he focused on a particular type of medium — black pottery, white painted pottery and burnished brown pottery. As interest in his work grew and folk art dealers and collectors sought it out, he made more detailed pieces — some intricately decorated on both sides and some up to 8 feet tall! With time he became a prolific, talented potter and quite the entrepreneur.
(Photo by Lenore Hoag Mulryan, 1979 from Ceramic Trees of Life)
|In an interview given in the 1970s, Martinez said that he wanted his legacy to be that he had left “a great seed for the pueblo and he wanted the art not to perish.” Martínez died in November 1990 and, just as he had hoped, his legacy continues: potters in his town emulate his work, his pieces are featured in many Mexican folk art books, museums exhibit his art, and collectors from many countries continue to happily add his work to their collections.For more information on Martinez, visit
The website includes lots of photos and a helpful bibliography. The site was established and is maintained by LADAP member Lee Arellano.
ARTISAN PROFILE: Magdiel García Hernández
His specialty, and what he regards as the distinctive mark of his work, is the recovery of old, typically Mexican designs and shapes that he finds by examining old objects, scrutinizing photographs in books, and by visiting buildings and places of historical importance. He uses these motifs as his inspiration in crafting his work.
Magdiel uses abrading tools, burins, grinding implements, and a small turbo motor (Dremel) with carbide burrs and diamond points. For certain special finishes, Magdiel creates his own tools and saws. Diamond-point engraving requires keen skill and sensitivity and Magdiel masterfully dominates his craft. First, he draws the image on the glass with a tool resembling a pencil that has a diamond point and that he also uses to abrade the material by applying delicate pressure and forming fine grooves on the outlines.
Magdiel is featured in the landmark book “Great Masters of Latin American Art”. He has consistently won prizes for his work and in 2006 he won the Premio Grandes Obras Maestros del Arte Popular in the “leyendas vivientes” – mayor pieza de rescate de diseño tradicional. (Grand Prize for Living Legends – a major piece of rescued traditional design).
Lote 12 Mz 26 Av. del Rosal
Col. Los Angeles,
Iztapalapa, Mexico, DF