Handcrafted ceramics in The Andes
"I… love to depict the experiences of my people, of my town. Not only in our traditional retablo dioramas but also images of our daily life, such as tractors, buses and taxis…."I'm Carmen Soto Palomino. I was born in the beautiful Peruvian province of Ayacucho in 1979. "It all began when I was a little girl and my cousins and I would get together to play. We spent a lot of time together and they were the ones who introduced me to ceramics. At first, it felt like a game. But I really liked to paint and wanted to learn the craft. Molding and shaping the clay was a total challenge but I loved it. Learning the technique wasn't easy and only constant practice let me master it. Along the way, I discovered my passion for pottery and eventually was able to create distinguished designs of my own.
"I've had some difficult times at different stages of my life but one of the hardest was when my husband and I separated. Emotionally, it hit me very hard and I felt like I'd never get over it. Thanks to my family and their support, I was finally able to move on. They stayed close to me and offered me a hand when I needed it most.
"I enjoy innovating with my designs and love to depict the experiences of my people, of my town. Not only in our traditional retablo dioramas but also images of our daily life, such as tractors, buses and taxis, the moto-taxis and the collective vans carry people and cargo.
"For me, the greatest challenge is painting a finished image and finding the right color combinations for each one. I love mixing paints and discovering tones I might not have known of. I love all the brightness and color that represents Ayacucho.
"My inspiration comes from life in our town, our customs, our colors seen in the natural world around us. It's life itself that we are sometimes unaware of.
"Once, I took my ceramics to a craft fair in Argentina. I was on my way when officials stopped the bus I was on. We were in a mountainous zone and these officials confiscated all the pottery I was taking to exhibit. I never really understood why and I never made it to the fair. It was almost three weeks after the fair ended that I got my ceramics back by paying almost 1,800 soles.
"My situation was critical. I hadn't sold anything at all and I had to spend the money I had to get my works back. Little by little, I was able to recover from this loss. Then one day, a shopper bought a number of my designs and I finally saw some income again.
"One of my loveliest dreams is to expand my workshop and offer my ceramics to people everywhere. I want to give my daughter the best I can so that she can achieve her own dreams. I'd love to attend international fairs and hope to be recognized some day for the art I create with my hands."