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If you follow my blog, or have read a few of my entries, you’ll know I’m a super-fan of folk and ethnic art. I collect pieces from all over the planet. Including Mexico. This story features some of my vintage Mexican pottery, which comprises a big part of my ethnic art collection. I’ve been collecting it since the 1980’s. I truly appreciate its beauty.

I don’t like to buy via the www. I like finding things in person. I currently live near only one thrift shop — a small Goodwill. So these days, I don’t come across good vintage pottery like this on a regular basis.  When I do, I’m exhilarated. You know the feeling…. Now, I’m going to mix up the rustic with the more refined, candlesticks with jugs — just like I do with my actual collection.

Mexican candle holder.

The first piece I’ll discuss here is the beautiful, rustic Arbol, or Mexican candle holder, made by Francisco and/or Aurelio Flores from Izucar de Matamoros, which is located in the Mexican state of Puebla. It’s at least thirty years old. I acquired it thirty years ago; it was pre-owned then. I know little about Mexican candle holders; nonetheless, I collect them for their beauty. And I do know this: sadly, many of the folks who made the best ones have passed away. Few are able to carry on in their tradition. At least, not at their level of expertise. I definitely do not use these works of art to burn candles. I just display them.

The back.

Below, is a vintage piece of Tlaquepaque vanilla ware, dating to the 1950’s or earlier. The tray measures 5″ x 4.5″ x 1″ in height. I love its decorative beauty. Tlaquepaque is a city located in the Mexican state of Jalico; pottery made in and around it is called Tlaquepaque.

Vanilla ware tray.

Tlaquepaque vanilla sombrero.

I have one other vanilla piece in my collection. It’s this sombrero, which has the following words painted on it: “Hotel De Cima Mazatlan, Sin”. It measures just under 5” in diameter. When I found it at a cool Pike Place Market antique shop around fifteen years ago, I remember how happy I was. There still exists a Hotel De Cima in Mazatlan. When I found it via Google, I expected to see it housed in a big, ornate old building. It’s not. It doesn’t look super-vintage; and the hotel’s management doesn’t seem to be going for a retro look or feel. Which is exactly what my sombrero has.

The back.

I like this little piece of Tlaquepaque, seen below, because rather than depicting a man with a sombrero, it features a woman in a skirt. That’s somewhat rarer. Also, it depicts a piece of Mexican pottery, near her side. The pot is  just 2.5” in height. I can’t recall when I got it, but it was here in Seattle.

Woman in skirt, rather than “Siesta Man”.

The back of the pot is plain. Although, in this case, I think plain is beautiful. That blue knocks me out.

Not “plain”.

Next is this reclamation project:


I rescued this 7″ long piece from Value Village or Goodwill, maybe ten years ago. It was in pieces. I scooped up the pieces, paid around seven bucks for them, took them home, and started gluing. (I use good old Elmer’s Glue; it seems to hold very well.) I notice I still have one arm to go! I just didn’t want to wait to add this to my post, because I’m lazy. I’ll go glue that arm on now, promise…. — I’m trying to determine its artist/age/region. Also, I’m trying to find out if there is a name for this type of vignette. This one will never, ever be perfect; but it will never, ever languish at VV or GW again.

From above.

Big old bowl.

This big, old Tlaquepaque bowl measures 10” wide x 4.75” high. It’s so big, it was hard to photograph well. — Value Village gave me such a deal on it, ten years ago. It cost seven dollars. It’s probably my favorite piece (or close to it). The illustration inside the bowl is worn; it came to me that way. If it was nicer, I’d show you a photo; but it’s gnarly, and you don’t need to see it. The outside is spectacular.

Side one reveals bizarrely-hued squirrels frolicking near cacti.

The reverse side depicts the ubiquitous, relaxed figure, known to some as “Siesta Man”, who sports the sombrero and serape. The bottom is stamped “Mexico”, and has “L-53” written on it (in grease pen?). Thanks, Value Village, for putting it on the shelf, intuiting that I’d be surface mining at your store, on that banner day!


Here is a another, quite-large bowl, similar in style and vintage to the preceding one. The unmarked, oval bowl measures 10.25” x 3.25”. I most-likely found it at Goodwill or Value Village. Those are good stores to search, for Mexican pottery. They have no idea how wonderful it is, so they usually price it low.  BTW, I love the “piecrust” rim this one sports.

Smaller, oval piecrust bowl.

I have another bowl in my collection that features the little colored thumbprints, or “piecrust” rim. It’s a bit smaller than the one above it. It measures 8” x 5.75”, and features the ever-popular figure who sports the sombrero, while he is involved in thinking deep thoughts. The back is stamped with the typical, round stamp which says, “Made In Mexico”. I’ve received really good feedback from other collectors about this type of Mexican pottery, so I’ll assume it’s pretty snazzy. — Although I knew that; that’s why it called out to me, begging to be saved from the dustbin.

Vintage red and white candle holder.

This unmarked candle holder is either my most vintage Mexican item, or second-most, anyway. It stands just 5″ tall, so it’s neither big, nor flashy. I just like it because it’s older. An associate who saw it said, “So sweet”. I agree.

And the rear view.

Bean pot quartet.

Here, above and below, are my four vintage bean pots. I love them. And yes, there’s a little pitcher in there, just for fun. Bean pots like these, made in the 40’s-50’s, are very collectible, and still affordable. They’re often wildly decorated.

Another view.

Worse for the wear.

Is this a blue jay? A grey jay? Well, it’s a Mexican jay! A beautiful bird, with a bird painted on its back. I love jays. I see occasionally spy blue jays (specifically Stellar Jays) when my cat, Katgrrrl, and I enjoy the view from our living room window, which faces toward the back of our building’s lot. (I have a view of a little “nature preserve”.) And, a wild grey jay fed right out of my hand, when my late ex-wife and I went on a fabulous Mt. Rainier hike in 1992. Why do I remember the date? Well, Sally Jo took me to Mt. Rainier for a few days, to help me cope with being downsized at The Bank of California. Yep! I’m a former banker. You may not have guessed that. – Right around that time, I found this Tonala jay, in not-the-best condition, at a second hand store. It’s the only example of a Tonala jay I’ve seen.

Bird on the back.

Speaking of birds.

This is my only Tlaquepaque piece that is actually stamped Tlaquepaque. (In reality, it looks like an abbreviation of Tlaquepaque was used.) The beautiful plate is 7.75” in diameter. I would love to know how old it is. I imagine it’s mid-century, like most of my collection. I think it’s an example of Bandera pottery. This type of pottery is called Bandera (Spanish for “flag”) because of the colors red, green, and white — the colors of the Mexican flag.

Plate mark.

Bandera bowl.

This bowl sits on top of a cabinet, next to the pretty Tlaquepaque plate posted above it. They seem to go together; perhaps because they both feature birds in their design. The unmarked bowl is approximately 7.5” in diameter. I’ll let it speak for itself.


Tonala tray.

This is just a little tray I’ve had for fifteen years. I know little about it, other than that it comes from Tonala, a city located near Tlaquepaque.  It’s only 4.5” x 3.75”. It’s important to me, because my housekeeper/friend of seventeen years gave it to me. Shelly is a collector herself. She’s always on the lookout for things to gift me. When I go to that big flea market in the sky, my will states that Shelly will get everything. All the pots, all the candle holders, even my gato, who is not Mexican-related. Except Katgrrrl lives surrounded by my collection, and she has never broken a thing. — A side note: after our 2001 earthquake here in Seattle, I rushed home to find much of my collection on the floor. One item was broken: a Jalisco Christmas ornament I had paid a dollar for. I glued it back together and hung it back up.

Another view of Tonala tray.

Speaking of Christmas.

And speaking of Christmas: I think I acquired this marvelous Tonala nativity grouping, post-2000. It was orphaned, in a Seattle antique mall. The figures are about 4” tall. It looks like one of the wise men took his eyes off the Star of Bethlehem, and got lost on the journey; and perhaps a shepherd or two strayed from the flock…. But this is the only one of these I’ve seen in person, so I’ll take it as it came to me, and appreciate it. I collect mangers and crèches. I have the manger my grandparents gave my family in 1952; I also collect Peruvian ones. (See my blog post, “Mangers, Creches and Retablos From My Collection”.)

Little Tlaquepaque pitcher, with printed paper label.

This is the only vintage piece in my collection that has a label affixed to it. The 4” x 2.5” pitcher has some damage at the base. Because of that, I wasn’t going to buy it. But it was very cheap, and I saw it was labeled. So I snatched it up. I bought it from my friend, Adria, who, along with other family members, sold at Seattle’s Fremont Sunday Market for a number of years. The label makes reference to a company called E & R. I could find nothing on them. Other collectors have remarked positively about the label; so I’m glad I rescued this. Collecting vintage pottery is often about rescuing items.

Damaged base.

Big And Small.

It will take three photos to adequately show off these two bowls. These are Tonala, handled bowls that I picked up as a pair. Their forms are the same; but they vary in size. The large one is very hefty. I love the big statement it makes.They have identical Hecho En Mexico stamps on their bottoms.


As the below photo shows, their sides are pretty too. (Better photo coming — had camera problems.)

It’s a bird! A pink bird. What a find!

Tropiche’ Tonala paper mache flamingo.

OK, this is not pottery. But I just had to include it, because these don’t seem to be found in large quantities, and I wanted you to see one. I found this hand-painted flamingo around 25 years ago at a Seattle second-hand store. It’s the only one I’ve seen, in person. It stands about 5.5″ tall. I’m not sure of its age; although I think it’s from the mid-twentieth century.

Flamingo base.

The fragment.

I found this tiny, colorful piece at a Seattle Value Village, sitting on a shelf, with no price on it. I walked it over to the manager; he said I could have it for 79 cents. It appears to be a fragment (3” high x 2” wide) of a bigger piece. I’d love to know what it broke off of.

I could make this story so much longer. I have all manner of plates, bowls and pitchers remaining to share. But this is long enough. Let’s close with one last photo; a group photo. — I was dusting, and I decided to place my larger pots (and a couple of birds) into a circle, and photograph them. They, like me, are not perfect. They comprise a bit of the results of my 30+ years of surface mining. Most of them are water jugs that are lacking their accompanying mugs. (I have but one mug.) The pitcher is about 13″ tall.

Ragged glory.

Well, get going! Go to your local thrift stores (not my local thrift stores — yours!) and start picking up this great, vintage Mexican art, in the form of kitchenware


Bonus Coverage:

I mentioned finding one Jalisco Christmas ornament, broken and lying on the floor, after our (Seattle) 2001 earthquake. It looks like the glue is holding, after 17 years! See below photo.

Great glue job.

When my late, beloved, ex-wife and I split the sheets, we also split the artwork. She hired an “appraiser” to look at every piece of my collection, describe it, and put a price on it. The below piece is one of my two Mexican paper mache figures which feature small Mexican pots. The appraiser labeled this one, “Man With Frisbee”. OMG; I’m out of here.

Hombre con disco volador.

Here is the only thing I like better than Mexican pottery; that would be a homegrown song, written and performed by one of the world’s greatest bands, Los Lobos. Adios, Amigos!

There’s an excellent Facebook group dedicated to collectible Mexican pottery, that you can join. You can post your pots, or just look at what other folks post: https://www.facebook.com/groups/tododebarro/?ref=br_rs