Tour Oaxaca 1

Ancestral Potters in the Modern World


Folk Art


Feb 23 - Mar 3, 2019



Four unique pottery villages
Off the beaten track
Learn about a life changing organization
Pre-hispanic pottery making
Witness amazing wood firings
Hands on play with clay
Understand real world challenges and great solutions

Immersion in a world of ancient Oaxacan potters, handmade cookware, smoky kitchens, small villages, new challenges, innovation ideas for positive change and deep experience.

Four Thousand years of pottery making wisdom is expressed in the hands of the potters of Oaxaca. Our journey focuses around a select handful of Zapotec and Mixtec pottery villages. Each community forms, finishes and fires its pottery in a distinctive way. We’ll meet potters who carry the generational knowledge of their ancestry, seeing how they work, putting our hands in the clay with them, participating in the thrill of hot and smoky wood firings and sitting down to home-cooked meals made in traditional pottery.

But there is a major challenge in the world of traditional potters; the inflow of plastic buckets, tin cups and aluminum pans has begun to force many potters to leave their villages and look for other work. A fabulous organization called Innovando la Tradicion is working with potters to change that. Contemporary challenges call for contemporary solutions.

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Our journey looks at deep old ways and modern ideas. The potters we meet are all committed to keeping their ancient ways alive and have joined forces with Innovando la Tradicion to help make that happen. As we wash clay off our hands or smell the smoke of the fire we’ll enjoy stories of ideas and adventures, like Zapotec potters showing their work in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art’s store of design, the creation of a first of its kind biodiesel kiln, design workshops bringing potters together from diverse indigenous communities, and the organization and resurgence of potters in a village where pottery was at the brink of extinction.

Join us on this journey that is about deeply traditional pottery, real world challenges and great ideas that make a difference. This is a journey about Fire and Clay and Change.

A Change & Maker Experience. traditional makers, or artisans, collaborating with innovative change makers (social entrepreneurs, cooperatives, etc) doing work that makes a difference in the lives of traditional people. A percentage of the tour price goes directly to the artisans and the change maker organization. And your presence and interest are priceless nods of approval to people working against the odds to make a difference.

B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner included in trip cost

Day 1, Feb 23. Saturday(D). We’ll have our first meeting at our hotel this evening at 6PM, introducing each other and talking about the trip to come. Afterwards out to dinner.
Overnight in Oaxaca.

Day 2, Feb 24. Sunday (B,L) We begin our explorations out the front door, meeting Oaxaca city. But this isn’t your typical old church and pretty plaza city tour. Our focus is to meet this city and the people who make it hum through the lens of social enterprise, meeting people doing work that makes a difference, new ideas, old ways and the fresh pulse of this city.
Overnight in Oaxaca.

Day 3, Feb 25. Monday (B,L) And now, clay! We begin in the town of pottery colored like the night, like the underworld, Coyotepec. The very distinctive black pottery of this town has made it famous far beyond Oaxaca. And if people know nothing else about Mexican pottery, they’ve usually heard of the black potter. Well, this is the source. And we’ll see it from the inside. We start by meeting one of the handful of potters who still forms her vessels in the unusual preHispanic method of Coyotepec. We’ll get a hands-on chance to play with some decoration tools (not quite like the ones you buy from the clay shop) and work on putting some style on a vessel or two. A walk around town with a local potter will also introduce us the ecological side of this village, a look at how a village organizes to take care of itself. And we’ll meet an innovative potter who is pushing boundaries of tradition. We’ll also have an opportunity to examine the sunken kilns of Coyotepec and learn about their one-of-a-kind firing process.
Overnight in Oaxaca.

Day 4, Feb 26. Tuesday (B,L) For over 10,000 years the valleys of Oaxaca has been populated and it’s been nearly 4,000 years since pottery appeared on the scene here. So it is that valleys of Oaxaca are filled with the ruins of fallen Zapotec cities and kingdoms, the ground littered with ancient pottery shards. Our morning begins with a visit to one of those ruined kingdoms at the archeological site of Atzompa, which sits upon the summit of a small mountain overlooking Oaxaca. Of particular interest for us here are the kilns. And just below these ruins is the present day village of Atzompa, which not only happens to be one of the largest pottery producing communities in Oaxaca, it is likely also the most ancient. We’ll spend the rest of the day here, meeting potters who know their stuff! We’ll see the traditional way of forming and firing pots as well as new approaches to both. Of particular interest is the bio diesel kiln pioneered by Innovando la Tradicion. We’ll also meet a master of comal forming. Comals are the crucial clay platters used for cooking tortillas and toasting chilis. It is no easy feat making one of these, though it will appear to the contrary watching a master at work. But we’ll let you give it a try, lest you might think it’s as easy as it looks. And throughout the day we’ll learn about the ways Innovando is involved with these potters and others and how that has made a difference. (PS, homecooked lunch today!)
Overnight in Oaxaca.

Day 5, Feb 27. Wednesday (B,L) There are perhaps 2,000 potters in Atzompa. Yesterday we met about 4. We’re going to go back today to meet a couple more. Juanita says “I was born in clay” and to watch her work is to see that she lives and breathes it, is one with clay. We’ll spend a long morning with her and her brother, watching her work and getting our hands muddy as well. We’ll also have the pleasure of witnessing a glaze firing in their single chamber, updraft kiln (the same kind of structure we saw yesterday at the ruins) including the fast and frenetic hot unloading. Gotta pull the pots before the glaze cools! This is a sight worth seeing. You’ll have some open time in the afternoon to visit those churches and pretty plazas we missed the first day.
Overnight in Oaxaca.

Day 6, Feb 28. Thursday (B,L) The ancient pottery centers of Coyotepec and Atzompa are crucial pieces of Oaxaca’s ceramic history and heritage. But today we go even deeper, traveling into a region where Spanish is only spoken as a second language. IN the village of San Marcos we’ll meet a family of ribbon bedecked Zapotec clay masters. We’ll travel with them to the edge of the mountain, among the corn fields, where they dig their clay, and see how they turn this clay into the workable material they build their pottery with. And we’ll see the pottery at work, cooking and serving (because we are going to have lunch here as well! And to cap it all off with a bath of smoke, we’ll witness one of the great pottery shows in Oaxaca, a pre-Hispanic, communal surface firing!
Overnight in Oaxaca.

Day 7, Mar 1st. Friday (B,L,D) …And we go deeper. Back your bags for this overnight field trip. We head to a region called the Mixteca to meet the last potters of Tonaltepec. Where once there were many and fine, with hard changing times, there are now less than fingers on your hand. But their work is unique, arid, earthy and essential, a reflection of the landscape that surrounds this almost surreal community. We’ll meet a group of potters who will show us their ancient way of forming, and perhaps even more fascinating, we’ll witness a firing method seldom seen by outsiders and unique only to this village. The firing wraps up with steaming and aromatic hot tanning dyeing of the vessels as they are plucked out of the fire with long sticks. Our evening will be spent in a lodge on the edge of a small town called Yanhuitlan and right next to one of the largest churches and monasteries in Oaxaca. Wonderful sunset photo ops to he had here.

Day 8, Mar 2. Saturday (B,L,D) We’ll visit our last potters this morning, a couple from this region who live right up the road and whose intensely creative and often humorous work in a way serves as a bridge between traditional Oaxacan pottery, which inspires their methods and contemporary studio pottery, which best describes their approach. But you decide for yourself after a home-cooked breakfast and a tour of their home, studio and gorgeously humble artwork of a house. Then back to Oaxaca, stopping enroute to visit a beautifully restored textile mill turned art center, that has little to do with pottery at all, but plenty to do with beauty. …So I guess it does have something to do with pottery! Afternoon free in the city to enjoy and then we gather for a fancy little final feast together.
Overnight In Oaxaca.

Day 9, Mar 3. Sunday (B)
Homeward bound today with a bit of dust and smoke marinating your clothing.

Date:Feb 23 - Mar 3, 2019

Duration: 9 days / 8 nights

Category: Folk Art

Where: Valleys and Mixtec Oaxaca

Departing and Ending point: Oaxaca City

Cost: $2,400 usd per person

Single Supplement $320 usd

Full payment of your tour is required at time of booking.


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* All Lodging during trip based on double occupancy
* Most Meals (listed on itinerary Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)
* Superb Guide
* Transport in private van
* Entry fees

Not included:
* Airfare and transportation to and from the trip pick-up/drop-off locations
* Lodging before and after the trip
* Personal items purchased during the trip
* Alcoholic beverages
* Some meals are not included. On these trips, Traditions Mexico invites you to explore the local cuisine at your leisure.
* Gratuities for your Traditional Mexico Guides may be given at your discretion in response to their professionalism and leadership.
* Industry standard is for each individual guest to tip the guide team 5-10% of the trip price.
* Room Service
* Travel Visa Fees

See Frequently Asked Questions for more details.