Sirenita Toca la Guitarra by the Soteno Family, Mexico
Sirenita Toca la Guitarra (Mermaid Playing the Guitar), c. 2000 The Soteno Family Metepec, Mexico clay, pigment 6" high x 5.5" long x 2" wide
The Sotenos are one of the families of ceramic artisans that have made Metepec an important arts center in Mexico.Metepec is known for sun decorations for walls, guitar-strumming mermaids, skeletal figures, animals of Noah's Arc. The making of pottery in the Valley of Tolucagoes back at least 1000 years due to rich clay deposits. In the colonial period, Metepec become a ceramics center, blending European and indigenous traditions, mostly specializing in black and green tableware, toys, religious figure and candlestick holders. Diego Rivera is credited with introducing new color schemes to a pottery making family in the 1940s with other workshops following suit.
Around the same time, Metepec potters began to transform candleholders into tree sculptures which have become the town’s best known exports. The original trees were relatively plain with limited motifs, mostly the Garden of Eden. Over time, they became more elaborate, more colorful and larger.
The Soteno pottery family descends from Darío Soteno León and Modesta Fernández Mata. Both were potters making utilitarian items, but in the 1930s Modesta began to experiment with more decorative items, starting with whistles in animal shapes as one of Metepec’s pioneer potters.She has a prestigious contest named after her called the Modesta Fernandez National Pottery and Ceramic Competition, which attracts artisan from all over Mexico.The couple produced ten children, all of which have worked in pottery.Like many other workshops in the town, the Sotenos work in multigenerational enterprises with four generations in the vocation.
Each artisan in the family has its own style and preferences in shaping items and the paints used. The Soteno artists have garnered acclaim both at home and abroad, as their sculptures are part of museum collections in Mexico, the United States, Canada, Europe and South Africa. Their works can be found in private collections, museums, galleries and other institutions in the U.S., France, Sweden, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, England, China and Brazil. The family hopes that the tradition with continue with the succeeding generations.