Category Archives: By Continent

Santo Domingo Flight into Egypt

Depictions of the Flight into Egypt are rare in general, and they are even more rare among pueblo potters. Angel Bailon has been making nativities and angels for years. Her son suggested that she make a Flight into Egypt, and this is the result.

Joseph leads the donkey holding Mary and the Baby Jesus. He wears a folded blanket over his shoulder in formal pueblo style. All the painted decorations are traditional Santo Domingo Pueblo pottery designs. Santo Domingo Pueblo is about half way between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The height of Mary on the donkey is six inches tall (15 cm.). 

Angel Bailon is originally from the Jemez Pueblo, but married into the Santo Domingo Pueblo where here husband, Ralph is from. She has been making pottery since 1979. She was taught by her mother, Marie Coriz, and specializes in storytellers, nativity sets, and necklaces. She signs each piece A & R Bailon.

Jemez Pueblo Nativity

Santana Seonia depicts the nativity inside a kiva, the ceremonial chamber for New Mexico pueblos. Typically, kivas are round. This one has steps to the top and a ladder to descend into the chamber. A small pottery angel sits on top of the roof. Mary and Joseph and Baby are shown in the cut out side of the kiva. Three wise men are kneeling outside the kiva, and each one holds a pueblo style gift. A shepherd with a staff and four animals are also outside. Then animals outside the humans. The kiva is three inches tall.

Each piece is hand-formed from clay found at the pueblo, sun-dried and fired in a Horno oven, then painted in the pueblo’s traditional shades of brown, black, grey and rust. 

Pueblo Life Nativity

This Pueblo inspired nativity set was created by Ann Graffy. The figures reflect some of the characteristics of Pueblo life. Beautifully plain in their wrap-around clothes they become a perfect showcase for the simple but highly effective ceramic ornamentation. This nativity comprises nine figurines and a rug. The dimensions of the figurines are as follows: standing human figures are approximately 4 1/2″ x 2″ x 1 3/4′; baby & cradle, 1 1/2″ x 1 1/2″ x 1; sheep 2 1/4″ x 3 1/8″ x 1 ¼. The rug with fringe is6 3/4″ x 8″.

Ann Graffy was born to an Illinois farming family on March 21, 1953. She became interested in art during her early childhood and later began formal studies at the University of Arkansas where she received her bachelors’ degree. During Ann’s college years she joined the Catholic religious order of the Sisters of Mercy. During her 10 years in the order, Ann taught various art classes and developed art programs for many parochial schools. She designed cards and calendars and created several public works of art. After Ann left the Sisters of Mercy she continued her work as an artist. She is quite prolific and her work is always of high quality and accessible to the public.

Baltic Nativity

This delightful hand-lathed, hand-made wooden Nativity was created in the Baltic Nation of Estonia. The figurines are made of pine, birch and fabric. They are approx. 3 inches tall. The stable measures 16″ wide by 6.5″ high.

Note that the shepherd carries a star on a pole. This is a reference to the custom of children dressed as the magi going from house to house on epiphany, accompanied by a shepherd carrying the star.

Dravšnik Nativity

This nativity was handmade by Silva Dravšnik from Slovenia. The figurines are made of stoneware which differs from earthenware, using a potters wheel. Silva has used this technique for over 20 years creating many different figurines, both religious and non-religious.

The difference between stoneware and earthenware is twofold: first, the type of clay and second, the firing temperature. Earthenware uses low-fire clay. The firing temperature is up to 1,000 degrees F. Earthenware is porous when fired. Glazes used in earthenware are usually colorful, though there are exceptions. Examples of earthenware are bricks, flower pots, sculpture such as Raku pottery, Pueblo pottery, maiolica, and more.

Stoneware is made using high-fire clay, which is not porous when fired. The firing temperature is in the range of 2100 – 2372 degrees F. Stoneware glazes tend toward an earthy look, though there are exceptions. It is often used for handmade dinnerware, pitchers, outdoor ceramic sculpture, and handmade floor and wall tiles.

Blue Carnation Holy Family

This Turkish Holy Family has a beautiful carnation motive, hand-painted on white porcelain. This technique and decorative approach dates back to the IZNIK – Ottoman Empire period (14th – 16th Century) and is characterized by the grace, beauty and balance of stylized flower motifs.

Geometrical and symmetrical patterns are drawn and painted upon a ceramic figurines which contain a very high concentration (85-90%) of ground quartz . The high quartz ratio makes these figurines difficult to manifacture and adds to their esthetic value .

This set features Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and a traditional Turkish rug.

The Holy Family comes with a Turkish rug. Each rug has a unique pattern; the photo is only an example. The rug is machine-made and measures 6.25 by 4 inches.

Painted Tin Nativity

This bright and colorful nativity is made in painted tin. Unlike many of the typical tin nativities each one of the 10 shiny figurines stands on its own without a support piece in the back. The set of brightly colored figurines include

Hojalata  or tin art work is undoubtedly one of the least known, most versatile, and most beautiful expressions of Mexican folk art is. Since the 1500’s, this humble metal has been made more pleasing by being shaped, stamped, punched, painted and cut into a wide variety of decorative and functional artwork. These days, Mexican artisans use natural, oxidized and brightly lacquered tin to create ornaments, mirrors, lanterns and other decorative pieces such as this nacimiento. 

Barro Betus Nacimiento

This Nativity from Tonala in Jalisco, Mexico was created by the Ortega family. This family has a long tradition of creating whimsical figures and scenes known as “Barro Betus.” They also use this tradition when depicting this nativity. Characteristic of this tradition is the depiction of the Magi riding an elephant, a horse and a dromedary. The bright colors are not only used for the clothing of the human figures but also for the animals. The horns of the lamb, e.g. are painted in the colors of Mexico. The technique used is know as Tonala after the city where it was developed centuries ago.

The ceramic production in Tonala is also known as the authentic mestizo ceramic. The tradition of burnished clay comes from the Tonalteca group, which used clay to produce polished forms.

The bright hues used for burnishing the objects originated from the powdered colorful clay found in Mexican soil. During colonial times, the production of pottery incorporated decoration techniques such as colorful lacquer brought by the Augustinian missionaries in the 17th century.

Today, the artisans of the Valley of Tonalá such as the Ortega family still use the burnishing techniques of their pre-Hispanic ancestors, fused with colonial styles that resulted in sophisticated ceramics that became an important part of Mexico’s artistic traditions.