I grew up surrounded by plates, vases, toritos, keros, and many vintage glazed pottery pieces at my mother’s store in Calle Santa Teresa in the Seventies. I was always attracted to shine of a good glaze, and I was very curious about Moorish iconography.
In the 1990s I started traveling throughout the south of Perú, looking for vintage pieces that were collected by some of the families in the area. I noticed that good pieces were very hard to come by, so I committed myself to rescuing the glazed pottery techniques of the Colonial era.
I got my start as a maker of ceramics when a master in Pucará taught me all his secrets. In his workshop, they built ovens following historical references and fired the pieces using bosta or droppings from llamas and alpacas, mixed with copper sulfate (to make green glazes) and different oxides extracted from iron (for yellow), manganese (for reddish brown) and cobalt blue from Cusco. Lead was still used for luster and depth.
After a few years with the master in Pucará, I returned to Cusco and joined forces with a friend who was a chemist and who had the infrastructure to take my experiments to the next level. The goal was to achieve excellent quality high temperature ceramics using metal pigments for a unique vintage Colonial look that is appreciated all over the world. We also developed our own formula for the clay and started making replicas from my collection of antiques.
After a few more years, I opened my own atelier to focus on my own designs. I am still interested in Colonial styles, but over time my work has become an exercise in fusion. I borrow the flora, fauna and traditions of the Andes. From the Colonial period I borrow flower vases, orzas, and religious items such as holy water containers. The main influences here were brought from the Moors to Spain and from Spain to Perú – so my childhood interests are still with me. But these styles were merged with Pre-Inca and Inca influences to make something really Peruvian.
I aspire above all to be artist, but I teach, too. I mentor many ceramists and artists from the School of Bellas Artes in Cusco and old ceramic artists from the community of Raqchi in the south of Cusco, where the entire process is handmade with no tools involved. I help them become familiar with shapes, colors.
In Raqchi, we focus on environmentally responsible clay and firing techniques so that they can make viable products that can help them improve their income.
Am I a Renaissance man? I don’t know. I am just happy that I have proven that a good life as a potter is possible.
For more, see Tater Vera’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/tatercamilo.veravizcarra or visit his Cusco workshop on Via de Evitamineto, Calle Fernando Tupac Amaru Y-1 Urb. Tupac Amaru.