Stunning Pottery at Chaguarchimbana House

The city of Cuenca is one of the most historical cities in Ecuador. It was built on the ruins of an old Inca site, a settlement that was known as Tomebamba, in 1557 and many of the ancient traditions and culture has slipped through the cracks due to development and modernization. However, some of the ancient artisan trades are being restored in the city, such as the art of pottery for which the city has always been known. Many talented potters are now expressing their artistic abilities through their pottery, at the Chaguarchimbana House.

The Chaguarchimbana House was originally constructed between the years 1870 to 1906 and was home to prominent community members such as Florencia Astudillo and Antonio Valdiviez. Over the years, the massive structure fell into disrepair, becoming a bustling venue for crime and drug users. Fortunately, Esquel and Fundacion Paul Rivet saw the potential that Chaguarchimbana House held to become a centre for potters, complete with workshops, galleries and a store where tourists and visitors can purchase the fruit of the artists’ labors. As tourism has grown into a lucrative industry in Cuenca, the opportunity to refine traditional potters to produce items for a commercial market was taken.

Fundacion Paul Rivet has always been developing programs and projects to assist communities in using their artisan skills to carve an income for them within the tourist market. Joining forces with Esquel has enabled another project to get off the ground – to aid potters. Pottery in Ecuador has been a skill that has been passed down through the generations and at the Chaguarchimbana House potters are taught new and innovative techniques to improve their skills and the quality of their work. Many of the potters at Chaguarchimbana House own family pottery shops but have to rely on old traditional methods to prepare clay, which is time consuming. At the workshop, they are able to learn how to use the more modern machinery and manufacture bowls, plates and various other pottery items faster.

The project exists to help potters in producing higher incomes and gives them the opportunity to network with other potters and gain entry into the commercial market. Chaguarchimbana House not only assists potters in the community, but is developing and preserving a traditional trade that has been a part of Cuenca for centuries.