Primitive pottery without potters wheel and without kiln

Red clay pieces will turn black at the highest temperatures (Photographic report: Y. Millares).

ARTENARA. Lugarejos is a primitive neighbourhood in the municipality of Artenara, where the cave houses have remained till nowadays. Also a trade that comes from the old aborigines has remained pure during the last centuries: pottery without potters wheel and without a kiln. Though it has been a very popular trade, during the 60’s in the 20th Century this trade disappeared because clay for crockery was replaced with aluminium and zinc. The population emigrated and in 1994 there were in the village only two women who knew the trade. In that year, the Government of the Island (Cabildo de Gran Canaria) organized a course and retrieved the pottery after a break of 30 years. Nowadays two women from Lugarejos keep on cooking clay in the same way as the Canarian aborigines used to do it.

Click on the map to see the Centro Alfarero de Lugarejos bigger

One of the most original pieces from Lugarejos. It’s not all about home crockery.

The project that retrieved pottery from Lugarejos in 1994 achieved several acts that permitted the recovery of that trade: the Cabildo bought some caves which were before clay warehouses, they prepared a course about pottery given by the last two potters who were still alive (Manuela Santana and Teresa Lugo), they rebuilt the caves to turn them into the Centro Locero de Lugarejos (Crockery Center of Lugarejos). In that year, the two teachers and 14 students coocked 200 clay pieces for the first time in 30 years.

Clay crockery from Lugarejos is part of the typology “popular pottery from the Canary Islands”, which is normally hand worked, the pieces will be raised without using a kiln. However, the clay crockery from Lugarejos has a difference that makes it more original and primitive: natural clay pieces will be cooked outdoor. As fuel they use what the pine forest offers: pine needles, pine cones and wood. There is no kiln, but guisadero (which is the place where clay will be cooked).

María León mills clay with a hand potters wheel.

Pine needles stoke the fire in the ‘guisadero’..

The guisadero
Clay, sand and red ochre clay will be searched in the pine forest. The most popular pieces were: bernegales (a kind of earthenware jar used to pick water from a filter), vessels, washbasins, pots and coffee makers

1. Clay gets wet and mixed it with sand and the mix will be kneaded. The pieces will be raised by hand the clay strips –called churros– will be stuck together. In order to get the red colour, they will be spread with ochre clay.

2. The big day, all the pieces will be laid under the sun for some hours.

3. The guisadero is formed by several lines of stone bricks. Clay pieces will be placed over it, perfectly fit in order to avoid any movement among them. The biggest ones will be placed underneath and the smallest ones will be placed on the top.

4. Pine needles will work as fuel for the fire, situated underneath and over the clay.

5. Pine cones will be added in order to keep the fire alive.

6. The high temperature will be turn clay into black.

7. Afterwards, everything will be covered by wood and more pine needles, getting a big flame that will cover the clay and will cook the crockery.

8. Fire will consume the vegetal fuel slowly and it will turn off. The guisadero will be covered by ashes.

9. Once the clay is cold, the pieces will be ready to be taken.

Further information:
In the report by Yuri Millares “Lugarejos thirty years later”, published for the first time in La Provincia newspaper (September 4th, 1994) and published again digitally by the magazine Pellagofio (only in Spanish).