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Capula Pottery: A Closer Look

Arroyo artesania Capula ceramics clay handmade lead-free pottery traditional

Take a look at these photos. I’m guessing many of you have seen this style of Mexican pottery and find it charming. It’s made in Capula, Michoacán and is used in restaurants and homes throughout Mexico as well as the U.S. It’s what we at Mexico By Hand refer to as “utilitarian” or corriente which means ordinary. About ten years ago we sold a lot of this type of pottery with our Mexican partners to wholesale clients in the U.S., and called the venture Cocina Sana. But unlike most of the pottery made in the town—ours was lead free. Artisans in Capula sell thousands of quickly produced pieces like the ones in these photos every week (cazuelas, bean pots, plates and bowls) because it’s traditional and VERY inexpensive. 

What a lot of people don’t realize is that there are artisans in Capula who create similar pottery for cooking and serving food, pero es otra cosa--it's a whole other thing. Their work is definitely not ordinary, and “charming” doesn’t even begin to describe it. These artisans who learned how to make the traditional rustic pottery from their parents, have developed their talents and skills and now create pieces that are truly works of art. We include some of these artisans’ work in our TABLETOP collection and not in the DECORATIVE POTTERY collection, because it’s not just “decorative”. Yes, it’s beautiful and should be admired for its design and creativity, and we believe those who create it are true artists. But it’s definitely intended to be used for serving food, not just to be displayed on a table or shelf. And the other important thing to note is that this pottery, for which there is no special designation, is also lead free. 


Several artisans who create this special art in Capula have received prizes and national recognition at pottery competitions, and are asking to be paid well for their work. The cazuelas in the first photo are priced at 80 pesos, or approximately $5 US. The cazuela in the photo below from the Gonzales-Ayala family workshop is at least 10 times that…in Capula.

The number of hours and the skill required, plus the unique designs and use of color is what commands that price. While some of our favorite artisans such as Fernando Arroyo and Raquel Ayala also produce dozens of simpler pieces such as cups and bowls for us and other customers, it is in the platters and other larger pieces where their artistry really shines. 

While we can’t all own an Arroyo platter, we can appreciate and admire the talent. And when you buy a bowl or plate from our Capula artisans, you not only get to use a beautiful piece of pottery in your home, we want you to know that those purchases help pay for the family’s living expenses and the workshop’s materials that enable the artists to continue their work. 


To see the Capula pottery we currently have in stock, please go to our TABLETOP Collection.


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