Juan José Ramos Medrano Master Visionary Maker of "Betus / Nahual" Figures

Juan José Ramos Medrano Master Visionary Maker of "Betus / Nahual" Figures

The renown artist, Candelario Medrano (1918-1986), was one of the top figural ceramists in Mexico, creating fantastic creatures and buildings.

Juan Jose Ramos Medrano and his wife Artist Yolanda Acero LopezToday, his grandson, Juan José Ramos Medrano, carries on his art & tradition with his whimsical and fantastic creatures. These fantasy "Betus/Nahual" are visions from his mind and are renowned as masterpieces.

Juan José Ramos Medrano's works are displayed and collected throughout the world. He works in his humble home in Santa Cruz de las Huertas, Mexico, creating the most incredible art pieces. He transforms the pliable clay into colorful creatures that are then coated with betus. Barro Betus (ceramics rubbed with birch oil extract).
Rooster Girl Medrano

Juan José is not a prolific artist and often when you visit his home, he has very little to sell.

The beginning of the body for a Nagual Juan Jose Ramos MedranoHowever, when there is work available, you may happen upon a real treasure. The process begins with "tortillando" or kneading the clay into unique devils, lions, roosters, churches, trucks and Tastuanes (grotesque figures inspired by a local ceremonial dance). The kiln is readied and fires pieces created several days before. The pieces have to be dried in the open air before baking them or they will explode. The firing is done at a very low temperature compared to other types of ceramics. Each figure is rubbed with birch oil just before firing, giving them a lacquered appearance once finished.

Medrano Sheep Ram Man Nagual
The origin of barro betus dates back to colonial times and is surrounded by myths. The most popular pieces of art are the colorful Nahual figures with the reputation of coming from a magical world. Nagual or Nahual (both pronounced [na'wal]) is a human being who has the power to magically turn him- or herself into an animal form, most commonly donkey, turkey and dogs, but also other and more powerful animals.

The Nagual can then use his powers for good or for evil causes according to his personality. It was your animal protective spirit or the boogie man. The common Mesoamerican belief of tonalism, that all humans have an animal counterpart to which their lifeforce is linked, also often intertwines with nagualism beliefs. In English the word is often translated as "transforming witch" but a translation without the negative connotations of the word "witch" would be "transforming trickster".
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