Having been a potter for 35 years, clay is always an attraction, so when I heard of the town of Ticul in the state of Yucatan where there is a natural clay deposit I longed to visit. Their huge vessels, planters and vases, are found in hotel lobbies, museums, and government buildings throughout Merida. We found a very reasonable car rental company (mexico-rent-acar.com) on Calle 57-A near the university, and arranged for a one day rental to drive south. We picked up the car at 6:00 pm Wed. and returned it at 8:30 am Friday for $49 including insurance. On Wed. morning we hit the road with map in hand. A little trouble with directions brought us too quickly to Ave. Itzales in the wrong lane, but we explored the neighborhood beyond and found our way back. First to Umán, 14 km southwest on Hwy. 180, then 80 km south on Hwy. 261 to Ticul. We had no internet service at our house in Merida, and of course I had stored the information about where to find the best potters in my laptop, but we had no trouble in this tiny town. I remembered that the very first shop on the left had been recommended, so I pulled off the road into the shade. What I found inside were rooms and rooms of glorious pots. All are hand built on wheels, like lazy susans my mother used to have, sitting on the floor with a man sitting nearby and a pile of raw yellow clay. No coils were rolled, simply handfuls of clay were applied in dabs to the tops of drying pots. Some of these were 6 feet tall, others were 30 inch wide bowls. There was also much tourist stuff that had been made in molds of figures and masks, but the pots were astounding. A line of 6 or 8 stood near the potter waiting for clay to be added. Outside, in the sun, sat hundreds of planters and vessels drying near the domed beehive like kilns into which workers passed, loading a firing. Everything is very low fired and color is applied after with acrylic paint.
Almost immediately I focused on one piece, a footed large planter, about 18 inches by 14 inches with horizontal stripes of brown, tan and orange. I asked the price and heard: 540 pesos (about $45 US). Jim decided to offer him 400 pesos and the reply was, “For how many?” in Spanish of course. Then we realized that a single piece was only 150 pesos ($12 US) and quickly settled the deal. After I had strapped it in with a seat belt in the back seat, I realized that the car would not start. Here we were in the middle of nowhere, but luckily it had a standard transmission and with a couple shoves from James and Jim we were off again. I made a couple more stops in town to see more potters and visit the ceramic god that stands at the edge of town, but always left the motor running. Then we were on to the Caves of Lul Tún.