Juan Jose’ and his son, Abel
Juan Jose Ramos Medrano is the grandson of the renowned sculptor, Candelario Medrano. Candelario was a sewer pipe maker who began making ceramic sculptures out of the pipe clay. This became known as the “betus” clay tradition of ceramic art. The subjects of this playful artform are often fantastical creatures. Each piece bears the unmistakable stamp of the particular folk artist who made it.
Photo of Candelario Medrano glazing one of his creations.
Juan Jose, or JJRM, as he signs his work, carries on his grandfather’s folk art tradition. He lives on the outskirts of Tonala, Jalisco, in a small community called Santa Cruz de las Huertas. He works in his humble house creating soulful pieces of art. He prepares his brick kiln days in advance while he kneads the clay into figurines and paints them. He then coats his colored creatures with “betus” or Birch extract oil to give them a lacquered finish. The pieces are then dried before baking at a very low temperature to prevent them from exploding.
Juan Jose’ often draws inspiration from a magical creature known in Mexico as the “Nagual”. A Nagual is a human being who who uses magic to convert himself into animal form. The Nagual may also transform into more powerful, fantastical animals. The Nagual use their powers either for good or for evil, depending on their personality.
Visiting Juan Jose at his house and buying his art was a fantastic experience for my wife and I. We were lucky enough to encounter his art through Stan and Jose’ who run Casa de Las Flores in Tlaquepaque. We loved JJRM’s child-like and soulful style and knew his art would be perfect for our shop, Hello! Good Morning!
Driving through Juan Jose’s neighborhood.
Our treasures. The yellow figure to the right is a “nagual”.
Juan Jose’s backyard garden.
Juan Jose’s kilns. The fire is prepared days in advance to create a low temperature that will be sustained for a long time.
One of Juan Jose’s specialties is capturing the gestures of animals.
Abel shows off the mask he made. Fourth generation folk artist!
Soulful brahma bull and musician.