Everyday People, Everyday Pots

pots and kids

Please come and see the current exhibit in the lobby level of Gladfelter Hall in the cases outside of the Anthropology Lab!

Everyday People, Everyday Pots was curated by the Lab’s Director, Muriel Kirkpatrick and features pottery from two of the Lab’s collections.

I spoke with Muriel about the Metepec collection.  Metepec is a municipality in Mexico famous for its pottery tradition.

Muriel, tell me about your time in Mexico.

It was the winter of 1970 and I went to the field as part of my Master’s Thesis.  Another student, David Strug, was doing an ethnology of Metepec potters and putting together a collection that would eventually come to Temple.  We sort of crossed paths as he wound up leaving during my field work.  My goal was to go the homes of the potters and see the pottery in their houses – what they themselves used.


A potter stands with his wares (an example of Muriel’s Metepec field photography). She remembers that the potters lived mostly on the outskirts of the village and worked in the yards in front of their houses.

My research was informed by a Maya typology developed by James Gifford.  [The Temple professor who edited CeramicaAlthough ultimately, I wanted to know the potters’ own classification of their works in order to get an emic view of this aspect of their culture.

everyday pots

TU1969-1-67, cazuela de ocho. An example of domestic ware used in Metepec homes.

I spoke very little Spanish but as an artist – the pottery becomes a means of communication.  And I made drawings to record their technique.

potter group

A group of Muriel’s drawings show the potter at work.  The bottom illustration shows the making of preforms, an initial step in this molded pottery tradition.

female potter

A female potter sits with pottery equipage.  The molds, shown on the far left and far right, were used to press the preforms into a vessel.  The temper used in the clay for these wares contained cattails which contributed to it’s unique consistency.


This pitcher was made to serve pulque, an alcoholic beverage with ancient origins that is made from the sap of the agave plant. It was made for sale.

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