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Sources for museum-quality ceramic reproductions for Latin America

This list is provided to encourage collectors to buy and promote reproductions, not originals, so as to change the market balance and discourage looting, and so as to give financial rewards and employment to modern artists from traditional populations who are doing work at the highest quality levels.

A small list of personal favorites, from various sources, for

Peru Yucatan Veracruz Casas Grandes

Hopefully folks will be able to add to this list, keeping in mind the quality levels we are looking for. Or we can encourage more production of this quality.

The sources listed are believed by those suggesting them to be of quite high quality, even if not always reaching the "nearly perfect" level. To appear on this list, they should be suitable for museums. (A couple of sources are included whose quality may be a bit less perfect than we are looking for here, and they are so labeled.)

The choices made here of what to include, and the opinions expressed here, are purely personal, and do not pretend to be those of experts. Anyone may have their own opinions on quality, and all are encouraged to express such opinions. Information included in this list has been received from varous sources, and is included by the judgement of the compiler of the list. Names of sources are deliberately not given, to protect them.

A note follows the end of this list concerning shipping and marketing difficulties. With few exceptions (museum shops, and one firm listed below), you must be there yourself, and hand carry the pots. Insurance and shipping difficulties have prevented a wider availability, and have therefore also prevented opportunities for the creators to earn increased incomes from their high quality work.

This list may be useful, if only because this information is hard to get for some areas.

To give an interesting perspective, contrast what a corresponding list would look like of the highest quality modern creators from the Pueblo Southwest of the USA. These are not strictly reproductions, but do use and develop traditional motifs; they are produced in limited quantitites; they are very good and can be correspondingly expensive. Perhaps this is a mature form of the same industry we are here discussing for South and Mesoamerica; or perhaps it is a different industry. There must already be some ready reference lists of such Pueblo SW creators, chosen to be inclusive of the best qualities, and chosen by merit (in someone's judgement) rather than by commercial ties and vested interests. There are books available on families active in producing SW pottery.

Lloyd Anderson, merely compiler


For Peru:

No Moche fineline drawing pots yet available anywhere of any high quality. Quite a number of sculpted pots are available, some of decent quality. The situation is better for Nazca and Inca pots than for Moche finelines.

Huaca Drago'n, near Trujillo, Peru: Angel Tamay Vargas nice quality sculpted pots, north coast styles marked as reproductions on the bottom

Lima, Peru: There are "indian markets" in the Miraflores section of Lima, with a wide range of quality. At least in late 1996, one courtyard with a cluster of shops had in the back a shop with many Moche and Chimu sculpted pot reproductions, visible in a display case in the aisle, some of intermediate quality, not up to the subtle representations of personal faces, but giving a good idea of the types of naturalistic and symbolic themes; a few of them are whistling pots. There are other "indian markets" in the same section of Avenida Petit Thuars.

Directions: At the large Miraflores traffic circle north of the Haiti coffeeshop, the one where converge the Avenidas Larco, Pardo, Ricardo Palma, Arequipa and one more, go east into an avenue called Ricardo Palma. Then go north (make an immediate left) onto Avenida Petit Thuars (this would be right across the street from the Vivaldi cafe and the Liverpool). There is also now a big and expensive restaurant at the corner. The markets should be about two to three blocks north in Petit Thuars.

Urubamba, Peru Pablo Sarminario (telephone 20-1002) Moche pots - figurines especially of animals, not fine line drawings. He speaks English. His workshop is called El Retamal.

Nazca: Gordes Calle Buenids (not too sure of the spelling) Nazca pottery

Cuzco, Peru: There are many shops open onto the street in an area on the "right bank" side of town, selling reproductions of varying quality. There is a potter "Olave" very high up on San Blas Street above the Cathedral square, with very high quality in several styles, including Nazca, etc. (First name Antonio ?)

Inca pottery: At the recent Larco Hoyle exhibit at the De Young museum in San Francisco, there were some pleasant and finely done reproductions of Inca pottery. A damaged distributor's (?) label on the bottom of one is "Culturas de ..." (was that perhaps "Culturas del Peru" ?)


For Yucatan:

Muna, Yucatan, Mexico: Artesanias Los "Ceibos" (on the main road) by Rodrigo Martin M. & Patricia Martin M. A wide variety of scupted and painted Mayan pots. Some are signed, some not. Also wood, leather, etc. This Muna family does very good work. They will do custom orders on prepayment. But you must pick them up yourself. Their sources include The Maya Vase Books (Kerr), Painting the Maya Universe, Old Gods and Young Heroes...

Reports have been heard that the artist, Patricia, once worked at the shop in Ticul which used to produce very high quality reproductions, but that with the death of its owner, no one in Ticul has been able to continue the same quality as before. The Ticul workshop of today is focused more on quantity than on the kind of quality we are looking for here.


For Veracruz:

City of Veracruz: Rafael Aquilera Hdez. He signs his works and calls them an artist's interpertation of Classic Maya vessels. He gets his vases locally and the ceramic is heavy and somewhat gross to the touch. His source is The Maya Vase Books (Kerr) and he is quite accurate. Good either for museum shops or for grade school.


For Northern Mexico:

Casas Grandes: Manuel Olivas makes good Casas Grandes pots. His family has a small shop in their home about two miles south of the ruins of Paquime (Nuevas Casas Grandes) That's about two -three hours south of Douglas, AZ

Manuel Rodriguez Callen makes good Casas Grandes pots.

Other potters are listed as well as many photos of their work in the book "The Story of Casas Grandes Pottery" by Rick Cahill BOOJUM Books - a "tiny division of Western Imports Publishing & Trading Co", P O Box 12591 Tucson, AX 85732


We appear to be left with no mail-order source of high-quality reproductions. The following two paragraphs replace what was in the original version of this listing.

One firm advertising in Archaeology magazine is Horizon Import and Export. Their catalog states that these are individually hand made, and "from a very remote location". (A phone call to ask the location did not elicit a reply.) One correspondent suggests that this ware is probably from Salvador, where numbers of fakes (not reproductions) are made. The cheaper styles produced by the workshop there from which these quite possibly come imitate the "Copador" type of vase, but there are many styles.

The problem with the material being advertised by Horizon is that it bears very little relation to original Maya vases. Even the worst Maya painter was telling a story, but these from Horizon are not of that kind, as well as not having glyphic texts. They have in general taken motifs and elements from the originals and used them as decoration. They appear not to be reproductions of actual pots.


Note on the difficulties of shipping, packing, marketing, and production.

It is difficult for very high quality producers to market widely. On the one hand, and most fundamentally, production cannot be simply increased for the highest quality reproductions, because there are few artists capable of producing that quality. Without a guaranteed stable market, the existing artists have no incentive to share their skills and teach others (who might merely compete with them). The mass-production model is not really what we are aiming for, of course, unless we can maintain and even improve high quality.

Could the creators in the Pueblo SW of the US have any wisdom to offer to Mayans or others in this regard? They have taken another direction, limiting production and producing very high quality, which assures them an income. Would this work for Mayans or others?

The better creators will wrap items very carefully for you, for hand carrying. However, there is very little or no experience with shipping through standard express services. A major problem here is that if a pot is broken, the final customer or the shipper may blame the maker for not packing the pot properly. Then the maker feels that their creative effort is wasted, and in addition they do not get reimbursed for the value.

At least theoretically there may be a solution to this, in which a local office of an express shipper signs off on each shipment, certifying that the packaging meets its standards, that the packaging is adequate and the shipper will indeed be responsible for shipment and for any breakage, will not try to blame it on the packaging. A solution to that problem would at least make it possible to increase the market for the creators. [I am pursuing this with one shipper and one creator - Lloyd Anderson]