Tepache vessels are known today as elaborately decorated ceramic vessels produced for the tourist trade by the potters of San José de Gracia, a village in the Mexican state of Michoacán. The vessels were first created by the potter Elisa Madrigal Martínez, who began making them in the 1930s after she had moved from Carapan to San José de Gracia; up until that time, the potters of this community had primarily made ceramic saucepans, but Madrigal Martínez wished to produce something different and more creative. She liked pineapples, which are international symbols of hospitality and good will, and she therefore created a pineapple-shaped vessel in the style of a ponchera, or large punch vessel.
Madrigal Martínez’s son, Hilario Alejos Madrigal, has arguably garnered more fame as a maker of tepache vessels. He and his brothers learned to make the tepache vessels from their mother as teenagers, and they developed two types of tepache designs: The biznaga or barrel cactus type, which resembles the combination of a barrel cactus and a pineapple vessel, and the conchita or small seashell type, which has tiny, shell-like scales covering the body of the vessel.
This tepache vessel is traditional in its ponchera-like shape, in its general resemblance to a pineapple, and its decorative motifs, as well as in its green, yellow, and cream-colored glazes. The lid of the tepache vessel is also traditional with its thick green leaves, but the calla lilies are unusual; while these are a typical flower of Mexico, petunias are more traditionally the flowers used to decorate tepache vessels.
For more information, you may contact the researcher(s) noted in the title of this exhibit entry, or Dr. Billie Follensbee, the professor of the course, at BillieFollensbee@MissouriState.edu