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Where to find elegant ceramics, ceremonial candles, and unique crafts that capture the spirit of Oaxaca City.
A FRIEND ONCE referred to Oaxaca as the “beating heart of Mexico.” People from all over the world travel there to discover new flavors at the city’s many food markets, learn about the complexity of mezcal over a tasting at a mezcaleria, and marvel at the incredible handmade goods sold by local artists. There is one thing that all these attractions have in common: They come into existence thanks to artisans.
Everywhere you turn, Oaxaca’s famous black and green pottery is on display in local restaurants and hotels, and ornamental candles adorn the magnificent churches throughout the city. The options to purchase these beauties are endless, so we sought out some of the most notable makers and visited them at their homes and workshops to help narrow down your shopping agenda. Depending on your travel schedule, it is possible to visit these artisans in their studios around the region, though it’s also possible to stay within Oaxaca City limits and find plenty to buy. Along with creating traditional pottery and candles, a new wave of artists has come to Oaxaca to set up shop and display their work. This mix of old and new keeps Oaxaca’s spirit alive.
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Cooperativa 1050° is an artist collective led by families of potters from seven communities throughout Oaxaca, Puebla, and Chiapas. Each village specializes in their own techniques, passed down generationally, to help create a collection of elegant ceramics in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes. At their namesake store in Oaxaca, you can browse the shelves for plates, vases, cups, bowls, containers, and more, each piece handmade with its own unique details and imperfections. We had the pleasure of visiting Silvia in Coyotepec, a village outside of Oaxaca, where she demonstrated the intricate techniques that go into making each vase in the collection. Cooperativa 1050°’s products are also available in boutiques in the U.S. and online. Xólotl, corner with Rufino Tamayo 800-c, Centro, 68000, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
In the small village of Teotitlán del Valle, we met Viviana, the matriarch of Casa Viviana, who showed us how to make elaborate candles called velas tradicionales de concha. One such long beeswax candle, taller than Viviana herself, was adorned with different colored flowers made with molds passed down by Viviana’s grandmother. Each vela is a work of art, and every detail down to the color of each wax figure is handmade. Smaller versions of the velas, along with other (more transportable) candles, are available at the shop inside Casa Viviana. Stores in Oaxaca, Brooklyn, and Mexico City also carry Casa Viviana’s incredible creations. Abasolo s/n, Centro, 70420 Teotitlán del Valle, Oax., Mexico
The first time I passed by Son De Aqui, I did a double take. Its facade is unassuming, but if you glance inside, a display of unique objects will certainly catch your eye and beg you to enter. During my first visit, all of the items throughout the gallery were made of wax. Casa Viviana’s long beeswax candles immediately caught my attention. Candles of all shapes and sizes, in addition to vessels by various artists, deck the walls and decorative boxes. The gallery rotates the shows around different themes, giving space to artists from Mexico and around the world to display their distinctive work, all of which is for sale. This is a place you can only experience in person. C. de Manuel García Vigil 601-A, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca de Juárez, Oax., Mexico
Elissa Polls is the senior director of content production for Departures. A producer who typically stays behind the scenes, she has worked with creatives from around the world, helping bring their ideas to life. Elissa has over 15 years of production experience and lives in Berkeley, California.
Skye Parrott is the editor-in-chief of Departures. A magazine editor, photographer, writer, and creative consultant, she was previously a founder of the arts and culture journal Dossier, and editor-in-chief for the relaunch of Playgirl as a modern, feminist publication.
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