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NOVICA Artisan Roberto Perez

Roberto Perez

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I was born on March 28, 1979 in a small village on the shore of one of the world's most beautiful places – Lake Atitlán. My father has always been a merchant. When he was a boy, in the evenings he'd draw on pieces of wood. Although some of his designs didn't sell, he enjoyed drawing very much and always found time for it.

When I was in school, the teachers organized art contests and I won 2nd and 3rd place in one of them. I enjoyed keeping my artwork as a memory of the success they achieved.

"When I was 16, I began working with Ken Edwards, helping him clean his house and doing anything necessary. He gave me the opportunity to learn ceramics with him.

"Ceramics are crafted by hand and not just anyone can do it well. Even the paintbrushes we use are very special ones, and we craft them ourselves with soft dog hairs. It is a very special art that requires time, dedication, practice, and paying a lot of attention to what you're doing so everything comes out right.

"One of the toughest moments in my career was when I was working in Mr. Edwards' workshop, and I was burning the garbage. I wanted to finish fast, so I foolishly poured gasoline onto the flames. They roared up and burned the gasoline container. I thank God that nothing worse happened! Mr. Edwards was watching, and he started to laugh at my lack of experience. I was terrified, but we learn from our mistakes.

"Ken Edwards was my teacher. He taught me all the techniques of ceramics, from selecting the clay to selling the finished work. Since then, I've devoted a part of my time to teaching apprentices. In this way, I am passing on Ken's gift to me.

"When we started Mayan-Ke, we didn't have money to buy a potter's wheel, so we made our own with material we had available in our houses. We brought boards and rulers and such. I got a door that wasn't in use, took it apart and brought it to the workshop. Even today, we continue using that wheel for our work.

"Although a foreigner brought ceramics arts to our village, we try to relate this art to our own culture. Our inspiration comes from the traditional clothing of our women. We use the colors of the peacock in our glazes, which makes our ceramics original and representative of our part of the world.

"I love being an artisan! When you've been trained in this craft, it's difficult to leave it – I tell people this work is my vice. What I like most about my art is the combination and application of glazes. It lets me experiment with all the creativity I have to mix colors and achieve new designs.

"Firing is the last step in the process and each firing is unique. So when new artisans join us, they have to be creative and responsible, and utilize innovative techniques. In this way, we all work together to make our ceramics the best and distinguish them from designs by other workshops. The competition to see who has the best designs and colors in this field is tough.

"In my free time, I like to ride my bike and also to swim. Personally, I think that if life offers you an opportunity, you should take it. Because if you don't, you probably won't get another chance."