Mexican Ceramicist Juan José Ramos Medrano
Juan José Ramos Medrano is the grandson of the renowned sculptor, Candelario Medrano. Candelario was a sewer pipe maker who began making ceramic sculptures out of the pipe clay. This became known as the “betus” clay tradition of ceramic art. The subjects of these playful artforms are often fantastical creatures. Each piece bears the unmistakable stamp of the particular folk artist who made it.
Photo of Candelario Medrano glazing one of his creations.
Juan José, or JJRM, as he signs his work, carries on his grandfather’s folk art tradition. He lives on the outskirts of Tonala, Jalisco, in a small community called Santa Cruz de las Huertas. He works in his humble house creating soulful pieces of art. He prepares his brick kiln days in advance while he kneads the clay into figurines and paints them. He then coats his colored creatures with “betus” or Birch extract oil to give them a lacquered finish. The pieces are then dried before baking at a very low temperature to prevent them from exploding.
Juan José often draws inspiration from a magical creature known in Mexico as the “Nagual”. A Nagual is a human being who uses magic to convert himself into animal form. The Nagual may also transform into more powerful, fantastical animals. The Nagual use their powers either for good or for evil, depending on their personality.
Visiting Juan José at his house and buying his art was a fantastic experience for my wife and I. We were lucky enough to encounter his art through bed and breakfast owners, Stan and
Driving through Juan José's neighborhood.
The yellow sculpture on the right is a "nagual"
Juan José's backyard garden.
Juan José's kilns. The fire is prepared days in advance to create a low temperature that will be sustained for a long time.
One of Juan José's gifts is capturing the gestures of animals.
Abel shows off the mask he made. Fourth generation folk artist!
Soulful Brahma bull and musician.