||The tradition of working with clay in Bahia is ancient. Its roots are in the native techniques which were mixed with the knowledge brought from Africa and Europe.
One of the areas in Bahia most famous for its utensils and decorative figurines made in clay is Carro Quebrado, around 202 km north of Salvador (BA). Following tradition, women are the ones who master the art, which is transmitted from mother to daughter, generation after generation. Out of need, pots, pans and bottles were made with care to be sold in the markets. The ultimate domestic utensils.
Like many others, Mrs. Nitinha – Josefina dos Santos – learned her trade with her sister Maria da Graça, born in 1930. “But now I’m the one teaching. I’ve taught many people. I was born in 1939 in Carrro Quebrado, and that’s where I was married and had my children. I’ve always worked with clay, and it’s still where I get my money from, apart from my husband’s pension as a farmer. I like making figurines, dolls, but the best selling items are the pots.”
Livramento – Maria do Livramento Borges – was born in Rio Real, in 1961. “I haven’t studied much, but I know a lot about pots. I’ve been in this profession for 20 years. I have my corner for making pieces and still look after a small farm with cassava, corn and beans not to mention the chickens. My daughter helps me prepare the clay which I get from Salgado Grande.” The technique she uses is to make big coils of clay that are put one on top of the other and smoothed. The slip is made with tauá, a type of clay diluted with water and applied in several layers. The texture can be made with stones or regional seeds. Livramento explains that decorating the pieces is the last step. The patterns can be plain or in relief, and like the lace makers the designs repeat themselves with little variation, but with the same delicate traces learned many generations ago.
Life is hard and both complain of selling little. “We have a house where we can work, but we only sell when we have visitors, so we have to carry on working, in the hope someone will knock on the door.”