Souvenir Ideas -- Tolima

Lest you think that fine ceramics come only from Boyacá, there are many fine potters in the department of Tolima. As in Boyacá, in Tolima the tradition of pottery comes from the original indigenous inhabitants of the area.

While in Boyacá the ceramics are orangish-red in color, in Tolima they are blackish with red undertones.

This type of pottery comes principally from a town in Tolima by the name of La Chamba, near Guamba.

The life of every villager in La Chamba revolves around the making of these ceramics, just as it has done for centuries. It is the job of the children to collect the clay and allow it to dry in sacks. Once the clay has dried, they beat the chunks into dirt using sticks. Then, the women use the dirt to make a clay and then they model it into pots and other pieces. The items are then left to dry for 30 days. When they are sufficiently dry, the men of the village build the fires where the pots will be baked.

The pots get their unique black color from a smoking process that occurs during the baking. Apparently, the use of donkey dung in the fires creates the release of an acid in the smoke that causes the pots to turn black. Bringing home the unique black ceramics from La Chamba would be a great souvenir for any child, especially one born in Tolima. Considering looking for these pots in the artisan markets in Bogotá or Ibagué.



KIT said…
I do have a warning for this pottery. We ran into some vendors and asked if we could eat out of the bowls. They said that the black pottery that they had was only for decoration and not to eat out of because they were not the REAL DEAL. They had simply colored the typical red clay with some sort of paint (maybe shoe polish?). They also warned to be careful that you find pottery that was actually stoneware (fired twice) and not just earthware (fired once) -- as earthware doesn't hold liquids. If you do happen to find the real thing They are gorgeous and worth having just make sure you ask a lot of questions before you just buy the first set you find.

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