Sunday, April 25, 2010

Calabacitas-- Burnished Clay Squash

Since we started Mexico By Hand, the burnished clay squash have always been a special item for our customers. In 2005, the first year we exhibited at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market, we had 25 of them-- and sold out in two days. They reflect a love of nature, create a warmth in one's home, and of course are beautiful to the eye. Many people, including me, enjoy stroking them as well, as they are so smooth and sensuous. Really they are.

The Martinez family has one of the three workshops on the same short block in Zinapecuaro, Michoacán-- where the calabazas or burnished squash are made. We had been buying from the other two artisan families for many years now, but a couple of years ago we discovered the Martinez family -- dad, mom and son-- thanks to this boy here, who is NOT a member of the family. On one of our annual trips to the town, this guy came out to hustle us inside, as he saw us going into his neighbor's place, our friends the Hernandez Cano family, to buy clay squash. In other words, he was trying to steer us away from the competition. We agreed to come by afterwards, and we did. The mini squash are a new thing in town, and the Señora's specialty. Her husband, Ventura Martinez and their son, Fernando, make the large ones. The chico spends a lot of time helping the Señora, instead of going to school because he says it doesn't interest him. She in turn feeds him and basically mothers him, something he apparently doesn't get much of in his own family. I hope the boy listens to my advice about the importance of knowing how to read and do math if you're going to be a successful artisan. Obviously he finds something interesting and worth learning in this family's clay workshop. Who knows, maybe I'll buy one of his creations someday if he sticks with it and learns the craft.

 These beautiful  burnished squash come in a variety of sizes and colors and are available at the Mexican Museum store in San Francisco and on our website: Please contact us at (510) 526-6395 for more info. if you'd like to order.


  1. Do you know of any US store that carries these?

  2. Yes, I carry them, as does a store in Berkeley, CA. I will be receiving a shipment in a couple of weeks that includes several sizes and colors of burnished clay squash. I will post some on my website after they arrive. You can also contact me at or (510) 526-6395 for more info.