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SHIPIBO POTTERY FROM PERU

The Shipibo people live near the Ucayali River in areas of eastern Peru around in the Amazon Basin.  These natives are extremely talented, making distinctive pottery that is traditional for their lifestyles.  For example, Shipibo vases are handmade and then decorated using natural pigments from the earth.  The geometric designs are representation of the visions of the Shipibo people, which is why this type of pottery is so unique and prized. 

After the creation of a Shipibo vase or other piece of pottery, they are decorated and then fired in low heated, open fires.  When done, the pieces of pottery are finished with a vegetable-based compound that makes it waterproof while creating a gorgeous sheen.  These people live deep in the Amazon rainforest.  Although they live a primitive life with limited contact with outside civilizations, the pottery made is unbelievable beautiful.

The men of the tribe are hunters and gatherers that still practice head hunting.  However, the women are the pottery makers.  Typically, clay is found, which takes several days in a dugout canoe to reach.  The clay is then mixed with ashes coming from the bark of trees growing in the area.  This mixture is then ground up into small fragments of broken pottery.  From this, each piece is hand crafted, without using a potter’s wheel.

The sides of the pottery are made thin, which is what makes each pottery piece so amazingly lightweight.  Once the pieces have dried in the warm sun for several days, the clay goes through the firing process.  The white base color is created from a clay slip whereas the red and black geometric designs come from the process of boiling bark.  Then, resin is obtained from tree sap, which gives the Shipibo pottery its unique glaze.

Most often, you would see the design of a cross and serpent.  However, the geometric patterns are all easily recognized and characteristic of things seen in everyday life.  For example, for special occasions, the decorations on the Shipibo pottery will depict a face and a body, which is believed to be a magical and religious expression.  However, outsiders are not quite sure of the true meaning.

Keep in mind that Shipibo pottery actually started for utilitarian purposes.  Pieces would be used for eating, preserving food, carrying water, and so on.  However, as the Shipibo people discovered money and the things it could buy, they began selling the pottery, thus getting word out to the rest of the world about their amazing talent.  Unfortunately, the trip to reach the market for the Shipibo people is a long, dangerous one.

 



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