Ceramic artist speaks about Peruvian travels

Experienced ceramics artist, John McCuistion, came to South Puget Sound Community College to talk about the numerous varieties of pottery he saw on his latest trip to Peru.

McCuistion got funding from the University of Puget Sound (UPS), where he has been teaching for the last 37 years. This funding allowed him to discover more about the ancient Moche people of Peru and how they use their vast resource of clay to make all kinds of pottery.

McCuistion teaches ceramics classes at UPS, and with what he found in Peru, he said he hopes he can share their different techniques for pottery making to art students all over.

McCuistion, invited by SPSCC’s International Education Program, came to SPSCC April 16 to talk about the historical Peruvian pottery pieces he saw.

The International Education Program brings guest speakers like this to the campus to share their experiences of different cultures with students.

McCuistion said the Moche culture flourished for about 800 years and was before the time of the more well-known Peruvian period of the Incas. He said the Moche people had no written language, but instead used pottery as their way to document history and pass down knowledge. He said the pottery of the Moche people depicted everything from warnings for prisoners to instructions for sex.

Ceramic artist John McCuistion at the Temple of Sun and Moon outside Trujilo, Peru. Courtesy of John McCuistion

Ceramic artist John McCuistion at the Temple of Sun and Moon outside Trujilo, Peru.
Courtesy of John McCuistion

McCuistion found many temples and pottery with carvings of torture and warfare. He said the Moche people were a very violent people. Many pottery pieces in his slideshow had pictures of decapitation and blood spilling.

One picture McCuistion showed had a walkway leading up to an arena where they brought prisoners. The walkway had etchings of eyeballs. He said that in the Moche era, they would actually line up real human eyeballs, that soldiers would step all over as they brought prisoners up to the arena.

McCuistion said Peruvians have a long history of pottery because they have such a vast resource of clay. He said the Moche people got most of their clay from two river valleys in the area.

McCuistion observed some pieces in this museum that could be evidence of foreign travelers in the Americas, long before Christopher Columbus arrived. Carvings on the pots included people with African and Asian features.

With McCuistion’s funding from UPS, he was also able to travel to Chile and Mexico with his wife. But, he said, Peru had the largest abundance of pottery to see.

McCuistion journeyed from Lima to Lambayeque in Peru, purposely not focusing on the famous Machu Picchu. McCuistion said most tourists to Peru go to Machu Picchu, but he wanted to travel the Peruvian coast with his wife to study the Peruvian culture of pottery.