Nicolás Fabián Fermín
Husband and wife team Nicolás and María del Rosario stand out for their charmingly sculpted and intricately finished clay artworks. They live and work in Santa Fe de la Laguna, a small Purhepecha village located on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro in the Mexican state of Michoacán.
This area has been a pottery production center since pre-Columbian times. Fermín learned to make ceramic vessels from his family at an early age, as both his parents worked in the traditional lead-glazed methods known in the village. Lead is no longer used, due to its adverse health effects, and today Fermín works by carving nature-inspired designs—think regional flora and fauna, as well as celestial motifs—directly into a burnished clay surface, rather than painting them on top. The ceramic pieces are then fired in a wood kiln for 3 hours reach a temperature of 600-700 degrees centigrade. If Fermín wants the pieces to come out black, he uses sawdust to create an oxygen reduction atmosphere during the firing. After firing, he rubs wax over the surface to give it a shiny effect that replaces the previously used lead glazes. From elegantly fashioned rabbits, to gently gleaming clay vessels in the form of fish or corn, the output of the Fermín family is simply wonderful.
It is common to see the work of the Fermíns adorning home altars for the village’s Day of the Dead ceremonies. They are also used to decorate chapel shrines; notably, the Fermín family erected a retablo at the entrance to the town’s main church that was made of approximately 150 clay fish, birds, flowers, leaves, and plates, representing more than a month of work.