As a little girl, my mother always had magnificent collections of handpainted Mexican ceramics, many of which were created by the master Gorky Gonzalez. Decades later, when I had the opportunity to go to San Miguel de Allende in 2016, I jumped at the chance to explore his studio. The beauty and simplicity of his work is astounding.
Gorky Gonzalez is well-known throughout the Americas for his hand-painted ceramics and pottery and single-handedly began the renaissance of the lost art of majolica pottery.
Gonzalez had grown up with art in his family. His father, a sculptor, was a contemporary of Diego Rivera and Jose Chavez Morado, and Gonzalez grew up helping his father with clay sculptures as a child. After studying at the School of Arts in San Miguel Allende, Gonzalez was working in an antiques store, where he first encountered majolica pottery. He was enamored with the art and became a student of the craft. After encouragement from others, Gonzalez pursued additional study of ceramics in Japan, where he came to better understand how to wheel pieces by hand. Importantly, Gonzalez took away the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi from that experience, the belief that each piece has a soul, particularly those that are crafted by hand (as opposed to those made from molds).
Returning to Mexico, he built a workshop in Guanajuato, where the art of majolica pottery began. The majolica pieces are a mix of Moorish, Italian, and Spanish designs that came to Mexico centuries ago. Despite its origins in Guanajuato, no one had been creating majolica pottery for nearly 60-70 years. As a tradition that was previously passed from father to son, the art of majolica was lost for many years, as generations did not continue the art and plastic dinnerware/storage became more and more popular.
Aside from using gas fires (instead of wood for ecological purposes) and using paints that are food-safe and FDA approved, the same traditions from hundreds of years ago live on in this workshop. Today, Gonzalez’s workshop is run by his son who has continued the legacy of creating beautiful ceramic pieces that honor this timeless art.