Barro Brunido, or “Burnished Clay” is one of the oldest known pre-Hispanic pottery techniques and the foundation from which numerous other clay techniques have been derived, handmade and the creation process is the laborious one. It was only for royal people used as precious gifts.
It begins by selecting the clay and shaping the piece, which is left to air dry for up to a month. Next comes the first burnishing stage, where little by little the clay is moistened, then rubbed silky smooth with a river stone. Afterwards, a clay slip is applied to further ensure the pores are watertight, and the artisan then delicately paints the designs. Next comes the second burnishing stage, this time with a stone of iron pyrite, which shines the surface to a luminous glow. Lastly, according to pre-Hispanic tradition, the piece is fired between 500 and 700°C.
One of the most notable features of barro brunido is a non-glazed but strikingly polished surface.
The designs pair local flora and fauna with complex geometric shapes, pre-Hispanic borders, and abstract themes including the mythical Nagual. Farmers tending their crops, seasonal celebrations, and observances of life and death are also among the subjects depicted.