OAXACA SOUNDS LIKEa place from another time. There’s the history and lore of mezcal, the agave-based spirit produced in the central Mexican region, the ruins of the Zapotec civilization, and the 20 languages spoken besides Spanish. There are also actual sounds—like the pastoral, acoustic b-roll of birds chirping that came through the other end of the telephone when I spoke with Kythzia Barrera, who lives and works there. “In Oaxaca, you can see that traditional culture is very strong,” says Barrera, speaking generally, but also specifically, about the region’s established pottery practices, which go back 3,000 years. “There is all this knowledge in the mountains, or the jungle, or in remote villages.”
A few years ago (Kythzia) Barrera started a non-profit company called Innovando la Tradición, and a retail arm to go with it, called Colectivo 1050º. Barrera doesn’t consider herself a ceramicist; a more apt title might be ceramics conservationist, or preservationist. Innovating Tradition and Colectivo 1050º are her institutional efforts to get the “traditional culture” of ceramics out of the jungle, and into the hands of a global audience.