I first met Manuel Granados and his wife Rosa García in the early 1970s. Their workshop was the second from the last in Las Eras, a narrow street where in many places two cars were unable to pass one another. The last workshop belonged to Rosa's brother Baldomero and his wife Francisca. When I decided that I wished to become a potter, I used to watch Baldomero at the wheel and take Polaroid pictures of his hands as he pulled up the clay and shaped it into bowls or mugs. Now, in the summer of 1997, I revisited Rafael and Rosa's pottery, 'El Oficio'. I spotted Rosa right away. There she was as before, sitting on a low-backed chair with a raw-glazed bowl on her lap. She was trailing cobalt-coloured slip over the inside of the bowl and I noticed that she was using a rubber pear instead of the old tin-can-with-a-hole trailer. Rosa looked up from her work and recognized me even though she had not seen me in over eight years. She gave me permission to take photos of anything that interested me for a possible magazine article. And then she told me what had happened to the potters of Níjar.
With Spain's entry into the European Common Market as a full member, the first thing to go was the raw galena glaze. This was replaced by an industrial glaze containing fritted lead, considered acceptable for food use in Europe. "Look," said Rosa, waving her hand towards the fired ware surrounding her on the cement floor,"we use the same oxides; the colours are the same."
But were they? To me they seemed a little too bright and clean, and the white kaolin background was a cold, stark white, lacking the warmth of the old wood-fired pots.
"We don't use the old kiln any more," said Rosa, as though reading my thoughts. "We have a gas kiln now. I'll show you."
Rosa put down the bowl she was working on and led the way to the gas kiln. What can I say about it? It was large, it was encased in shiny new metal. It had modern controls. Right next to it, like a museum piece, stood the entrance to the old kiln. The bricks had been whitewashed, I really don't know why.
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