Tiburcio Soteno Fernandez (Biographical details)

Tiburcio Soteno Fernandez (painter/draughtsman; ceramicist/glass worker/potter; Mexican; Male; 1952; active)

Also known as

Soteno Fernandez, Tiburcio


Excerpted from "Cloth to Clay" web site:

Tiburcio Soteno Fernández belongs to a large and important family of ceramic artists. Born in 1952 in the town of Metepec, Tiburcio learned his skills in early childhood.

In Metepec, ceramics are almost always a male pursuit. Unusually, Tiburcio inherited his skill from his mother. Modesta Fernández learned her craft as a girl, when she was sent away from home to escape infection during an epidemic.

Today Tiburcio still sells many of the ceramic toys he remembers from his childhood. These include bulls, roosters, lions, rabbits and winged horses. He also makes the figures that were once used in traditional healing rituals.

The moulds used to make many of these figures are old and highly prized. Tiburcio hand-models smaller figures. Each healing set, known as a cuadrilla, comprises approximately 32 pieces. A partial set in progress is shown here, including the man on horseback with his lady.

As a child, Tiburcio was taught to respect these figures. He explains: "They are strange and mysterious. The cuadrilla has been very important for us. We were a poor family. I can still remember the healer who used to come for these figures. I used to ask my parents what the cuadrilla was for and how it was used. They explained that the healer needed it to cure the sick. He would use the figures to attract the sickness away from his patient. Then he would leave the figures in a distant spot, perhaps in the mountains. These figures are the transition between the sort of things we used to make and the things we make now. They are a bridge between the past and the present."

The finished cuadrilla is white-washed, then painted with bright colours. Figures include the person who hopes to be cured, the man on horseback with his lady, kings, musicians, dancers and a priest. Also present are the rainbow and the wind, natural elements associated with water and air. The animal world is represented by a coyote, a dog, a serpent, a lizard and a sheep, all seen in this image in the foreground before a band of musicians. Saint Gabriel presides over the group. As Tiburcio says: "Es toda una vida." ["All life is here."]

In Metepec, skills are passed down from generation to generation. Tiburcio has taught his working methods to his three sons. They now help Tiburcio, as he once helped his parents. Carlos is Tiburcio's eldest son. Born in 1978, his work is already sought after by collectors. When Tiburcio was invited to Toronto to make a piece for the Gardiner Museum, Carlos came too. The piece he is painting here shows a children's game called 'El palo encebado' ['the greasy pole'].


'Metepec Y Su Arte en Barro.' Artes de Mexico. Mexico City: Revista Artes de México, 1995, p. 54-65.
Kindersley, Dorling. Mexico Eyewitness Travel Guide. London: 1999.
Ostermann, Matthias. The Ceramic Narrative. London: A & C Black, 2006.