Froylan Hernandez spends his days in his home studio in the Centro area of Puerto Vallarta, using his vivid imagination to create casserole dishes that might look like a pig, have a frog for a handle, or whose lid has been decorated with an octopus. He makes plates & platters in the shapes of a whale or a fish, and much of his repertoire reflects his love for mythological creatures and the supernatural.
While Froylan is now a well-established artist here in Puerto Vallarta; he can trace his roots back to a poor boy that learned to use his hands to make small animals he could sell for two pesos each. They were very simple but you could easily identify what each animal was.
He was born in the village of Irapuato, outside of Guanajuato in 1960, and from the time he was eight years old he knew he was destined to work with his hands. Lying on his belly, he would watch the first budding seedlings from the seeds he planted, and was preoccupied with everything that involved nature and animals. It was near the river by his village, where Froylan would discover the clay-laden rocks he refers to as “barro mystic”. Barros is Mexican clay with a unique consistency and to his surprise; many of the utensils in his mother’s kitchen were made from this clay. As he learned to form small animals and make his own toys from this clay, he started to get images in his head of what he could make with this clay, and it was at that minute he decided to become an artist.
Very young, only 17, he left his village for Mexico City after an older brother talked to him about attending school. Froylan wanted to attend the Escuela Diseño y Artesanías de Bellas Artes, but he soon found out that he did not have the correct documents to be a regular student. The school hired him to do odd jobs around the school, and became impressed with his ability to work with clay, and as luck would have it, he was given a scholarship as an exceptional student. The coordinator of the studio gave him his first real job in clay, making 150 plates for a Japanese wedding. For the next two years, Froylan received his first formal training in the arts, classes in history and drawing, and with various teachers, learning the techniques of ceramics that he would build his career on. He got a job at a ceramics factory to support himself, where they allowed him to sleep in a large unused kiln after realizing his potential. In exchange for a place to stay and terrible wages, he made animals for them, and beer steins, but his first love was the time he would spend at school. There the revolutionary spirit and the feelings of solidarity with the other students made him hate vacations and holidays because he could not be in school learning.
After school he worked briefly in his brother’s studio in Irapuato where he got his first experience working a high temperature kiln. Soon he moved to Guanajuato where there were neighborhoods made up of potters and their families. That is where he started making crazy things, Don Quixotes on horses and others on dragons. He always had to improvise; He used an ancient kick wheel to throw on and the conditions were horrendous. From there the trail led to the Gustavo Bernal School workshop in Michoacán and Monterrey, where he worked in the Cultural Center, supporting himself with odd jobs and singing in public.
When he finally managed to move to the United States he was able to find work at the Clay House Studio, keeping the studio running. It was there, after watching Froylan working on the wheel, that the studio owner introduced him to the internationally famous ceramic artist Michael Frimkee, who asked if Froylan would like to work on a project with him. That gave him the opportunity to “walk through the gates of famous people” as he puts it. Michael Frimkee is a famous ceramics artist who throws pots without using water. He was a musician who turned artist after a vision during a peyote trip and his pots are a mix of Greek-styles & humorous art. He taught Froylan to throw without using water, using the humidity of the clay, which is difficult to do.
After leaving Michael Frimkee’s studio he set out for Puerto Vallarta where he worked for five years at Mundo de Azulejos making models & molds. He also worked in the Graphic and Ceramic workshop of the artistic community of Puerto Vallarta, “The Pulpo Rojo”, where he was in charge of the ceramic workshop. Following his wife Nancy back to Canada, he worked for a government school, Cultural Center of Montreal de Ville Mont-Royal, where he became the Instructor de Torno (wheel instructor), based on his work with Michael Frimkee and his ability to throw without water. Froylan continued to miss Mexico however, and eventually he and his wife, made their way back here to Puerto Vallarta, to stay. If you would like to meet Froylan, you can drop in to say hello and visit his studio at Calle Abasolo 238, Centro, just off Juarez or call 322 121 0476 to arrange a time to speak with him. Special pieces can be done on a commission basis.
Text and photo printed with the permission of the author. To use in other publications, please contact her through her Facebook page