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Jorge Wilmot, one of the most distinguished artisans of Mexico, dies at age 83
"Pot with Skulls," a vase by artist Juan Jorge Wilmot Mason is shown at the Dallas Museum of Art. The piece was among 500 objects by 175 living artists featured in "Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art". AP Photo/Dawn Dietrich.

MEXICO CITY.- Jorge Wilmot was one of the most distinguished artisans of Mexico, and has been credited with the introduction of stoneware and other high fire techniques to the country. His work is also known for its more austere, Oriental-inspired designs blended with Mexican motifs. His work has been widely sold and exhibited both in Mexico and abroad and he has trained and influenced generations of ceramicists at the school he established in Tonalá, Jalisco. Jorge Wilmot died January 12, 2012 in Tonala, Mexico, at the age of 83 years.

Jorge Wilmot was born in Monterrey, Nuevo León, in 1928. He began artistic studies at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas in the Academy of San Carlos in the early 1950s before going on to Europe. There he studied at the Instituto Franco-Italiano in Paris in 1953 and worked in Sweden with ceramicist Limberg Koge Londgren. He had further studies in Basel, Switzerland, in design at the Escuela de Oficios from 1953 to 1957.

Wilmot began working for the ceramics industry in Monterrey where he generated a number of innovations in technique and design. However, few firms kept Wilmot on after adapting his ideas. This eventually pushed him to relocate to Tonalá, Jalisco, by the 1960s to established his own workshop, studying the ceramics history and culture of western Mexico. In the 1960s, Wilmot held annual exhibits of his works at the Inés Amor Gallery, which brought him much attention. This led to his work being noticed and accepted abroad, which brought him wealth and fame.

Wilmot’s two main contributions to Mexican ceramics is the introduction of high fire ceramics such as stoneware and blending of traditional Mexican designs and motifs with international and modern influences. He was quoted as saying “La cerámica de las artes es una de las más antiguas y a su vez de las más modernas” (Ceramics is one of the oldest and most modern art forms.) referring to the need to preserve tradition and modify it. Wilmot combines pre-Hispanic designs and motifs with modern elements as well as international influences, especially those from Asia. CONACULTA credits Wilmot with revolutionizing ceramics production in Mexico and establishing the production of high-fire wares, principally in Tonalá. He has been one of the forces behind Tonalá’s current dominance in pottery and ceramics.

When Wilmot arrived to Tonalá in the 1960s, he felt that many Mexican ceramics were stuck in the past with no clear direction on how to adapt tradition to the modern world. He also felt that much of Mexico’s ceramic production had degraded technically. Using his international experience as a base, Wilmot began to experiment with new ceramic forms, such as decorative objects and new methods of firing, being one of the first artisan ceramicists to use gas ovens on a large scale. This facilitated the introduction of stoneware production techniques and the recreation of the native “bruñido” pottery but fired at high temperatures.

Wilmot never considered himself an innovator but rather as someone who blended different influences. In addition, to high fire techniques, Wilmot also integrated Chinese crackled glazing (Jung Yao and Ko Yao )into a number of his pieces along with “celadon” and pale blue hues. His work is distinguished by his designs such as those of birds, flowers, two-headed eagles, lions and multicolored suns. Most of these are austere designs, a sign of Oriental influence rather than the more common Mexican tradition of adding profuse Baroque elements. His work has influenced ceramicists both in Mexico and abroad, with his works widely sold in Europe, Japan and the United States. In Mexico, so many of his innovations have been adopted by so many potters in the area that just about anything that departs from tradition shows Wilmot’s influence.

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