Luis Manuel Morales Gamez comes from a long line of pottery makers, five generations. His father Miguel Morales popularized a style of decoration with black line figures on a cream white background, in which his sister, Angelica Morales, excels.
Manuel continues in ceramics but has moved into a different direction, the making of high-fire, ceramics fired at very high temperatures, which are finer and more resistant.
He began working as a child, apprenticing with his father. In the early 1980s, when he was about 17, state agencies offered the opportunity to learn high fire ceramics and financing for kilns. Miguel took advantage and Manuel learn right alongside.
Unfortunately, Miguel died in an accident but Manuel decided to specialize in high-fire work his father began experimenting with. This work is not just a matter of a new firing technique but to learn new forms of decoration. Today, all Manuel’s pieces are one-of-a-kind, but they are generally moderized versions of pre Hispanic designs, elements from traditional Lake Patzcuaro life, costumbrista images, those of flora and fauna or a mixture. Another distinction is color scheme… often fairly dark with ochre, black and deep blue colors predominating.
Most of Manuel’s sales are from clientele he has built up over the decades. These are mostly wholesalers such as galleries. He does some sales through fairs and large public events such as the Noche de Muertos en Oaxaca. We met him at a weekend dedicated to Michoacan artisans in Mexico City. Much of his work can be found in upscale venues in places such as Puerto Vallarta, Oaxaca and San Miguel Allende, generally catering to foreign buyers. For this reason a large percentage winds up abroad, especially in the United States.
There has been promotion of his work in the US, which has brought tourists to his door in Tzintzuntzan, to the workshop Ceramica tztztz . However, much of what is here is seconds, pieces with small flaws, often unnoticable but make them unsellable in his normal venues.
The family tradition of making pottery continues as, the sixth generation, Manuel’s son and three daughters are learning the craft.
All photos are from the artisan’s Facebook page, used with permission.