Barro Betus- Ortega & Medrano Families
(Gerardo Ortega) (Juan Jose Medrano)
Santa Cruz de las Hurtas is a suburb of Tonalá, Jalisco, Mexico where artists from this area are known for making ‘barro betus’ or ‘ceramica fantastica’. This is a form of glazed pottery whose patina was originally made with the resin of a pine tree called “betus”. The artisans of Tonalá still use the burnishing techniques of their pre-Hispanic ancestors fused with colonial styles that resulted in these colorful, whimsical, and one-of-a-kind sculptures. Two of the most recognizable families from Santa Cruz de las Hurtas who use the barro betus techniques are the Ortega & the Medrano families.
From the Ortega family, we carry a lot of work specifically from Gerardo. Gerardo Ortega is a 4th generation artist to work with barro betus. He was taught by his father, Eleuterio Ortega Hernandez, and his grandmother, Natividad Hernandez. He follows in the footsteps of his grandmother in the traditional technique, but is constantly looking for new and innovative ways to develop new products while staying true to the art! Gerardo is known for his whimsical depictions of roosters, but he also is known for his fun and colorful dogs, cows, and pigs. However, Gerardo is not the only one in his family to practice this technique. Oscar and Eleuterio, two of his brothers, oversee the production and painting. This is definitely a family operation, as their sons, daughters, nephews and nieces who range in age from 16-30 also work in production, design, and painting. Gerardo also provides opportunities for apprenticeships, which helps out his community!
The Medrano family began their journey into clay art with Candelario Medrano. Candelario originally worked making ceramic sewer pipes and roof tiles, but in the evening, he would make toys and figures. He became popular for his nahuals, a shapeshifting mythical figure half animal/half human who can use their powers for good or evil depending on their personality. His work appealed greatly to American tourists and by the ‘70’s, his work was being widely collected. His son, Serapio, learned about making the Barro Betus at a young child and by the age of 14 began selling his work to help the family. When his father died, Serapio continued the family tradition but with his own distinctive style. Candelario's grandson, Juan Jose, has also carried on the family tradition and has won many awards and recognitions for his work. It is Serapio and Juan Jose's work we carry in our shop!
Their work is fun, whimsicial, and very representative of their heritage. We love that it is a family business and that they have kept their family traditions going strong. You can shop this and more of there work on our website, here!