Carlos Chaclán

Sallie R. Wagner Indigenous American Artist/Scholar Fellowship


Carlos ChaciánCarlos ChaciánPhotograph by Katrina LaskoCarlos ChaciánPhotograph by Katrina Lasko

Carlos Chaclán, a Quiche Maya clay ceramicist from Guatemala, has received the Sallie R. Wagner Indigenous American Artist/Scholar Fellowship for 2005-06.

Born in Totónicapan, Guatemala, and while still in grade school, Carlos helped his parents make traditional clay bricks and roofing tejas (curved shields made of red adobe).  He never envisioned that this early work experience with clay would lead to a stellar career. This changed in 1970, when at the age of 16, Carlos attended a newly formed Guatemalan government school established for aspiring artisans. His focus was “ceramica tomeada,” (wheel ceramics). Later, Carlos became a student at the Artes Plasticas School in Guatemala City.

Awarded a five-year scholarship, this new opportunity launched his career in the field of ceramics. After graduation, Carlos worked as a designer for an archaeological project with the Guatemalan government. In 1982, the restoration of Hispanic and pre-Hispanic ceramics led him in a new direction, and in 1986 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) awarded him a scholarship to study Peruvian ceramic restoration.  His career blossomed and in 1989-1991, additional financial support by the Japanese Government allowed him to study high-fire ceramics at the Mokichi Okada Association in Toluca, Mexico.

Carlos has taught numerous ceramic courses to students from Guatemala’s countryside. He has also participated in a number of conferences and given lectures to different ethnic groups in his homeland. “I would like to broaden my knowledge and experiences in the field. I would, in turn, share this knowledge with the ceramic artists in my community and other ethnic groups. My goal would be to disseminate the information to different levels of our society.”

Carlos has received many awards and honors, including the Orden Patrimonio Cultural de Guatemala (the Cultural Treasure of Guatemala Award), given to him by the Ministry of Culture in 2002.

During his six-month tenure as the Wagner Fellow at the School for Advanced Research, Carlos will explore and expand his knowledge of his Mayan ancestors, “because they are great [ceramic] masters.”  He intends to create two sixteen to eighteen piece exhibits focusing on Mayan art styles, including musical instruments. He is particularly interested in Pre-Columbian ceramic works because, he says, “This type of art exemplifies natural treasures from the Earth itself. It is also part of a rich Maya legacy, which would take more then a lifetime to understand.”

The Indian Arts Research Center at SAR is pleased to welcome this outstanding Indigenous artist/scholar from Guatemala.

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