Today’s Artists of San Miguel: Rosa’s interior garden

By Natalie Taylor

The ceramic works of Rosa Torres are unique on many levels; they reflect the various stages of her own progress toward her current works. Rosa was born in San Luis Potosi, and she went to university there for her degree in graphic design. Then she moved to Mexico City where she worked for a publishing company designing books, and taking photographs for various magazines. She met her husband Ernesto de la Peña, a plastic artist himself, and they were married. Because Ernesto’s mother—originally from the Catalan region of Spain—and his sister, were living in Toronto, the couple moved there as well. They lived in Canada for ten years, and their daughter was born there. 

While living in Toronto, Rosa was doing paper sculptures. She discovered, and became interested in ceramics, and found different ways and possibilities of working with clay. She was struck with the great contrast of the way ceramics were treated and crafted in Canada. In Mexico, the old, traditional ways are respected and seldom veered from. Rosa liked the idea of innovations and fell into it with ease. 

Ernesto also has family in San Miguel de Allende, so in 1998, he and Rosa decided to move here. They found the right house in La Luz, bought it, and have fully renovated it to where it includes a workshop for Rosa, and a large, light-filled studio for Ernesto, where he paints and teaches painting. They are both very much dedicated to their individual artwork, and are happy with the great reception they received from the San Miguel community.

Shortly after moving here, Rosa became part of an artists’ cooperative and began exhibiting her ceramics. Initially her works were functional ceramics that sold well—cups, saucers, and plates. Then she began to teach, and it is here that things began to change for her. She says that students “push you,” because they are always questioning, always searching for innovative ways to do things. You, as a teacher, are forced to do research to answer their questions, and in the process you move into new methodology; you develop your own new ideas, you are motivated to forge ahead tilting the needle toward the future. 

Rosa began experimenting with colors in ceramics. Her studio became a virtual laboratory where she has kept a careful catalog of the different ways to achieve colors. A common method of imparting color to ceramics is applying glaze. But there are so many variables even with this step. The type of base clay used is most significant to the end result—white, brown, or black clay will look different even if the same glaze is applied. Many other factors, such as the temperature of the kiln, or the increase or decrease of oxygen within, create different effect in ceramics, and affect the piece’s ultimate color. Rosa also worked with the ancient Japanese technique called Raku, which creates unique final products. 

In her workshop, Rosa has numerous samples, each carefully labeled, indicating the base clay, the glaze (or lack of), the temperature, and any factors that affect the final result. It truly is a highly organized ceramics laboratory, and the perfect environment for students to learn. Rosa has done several exhibits with her students, in particular a highly successful one in 2016 in Casa de Europa. However, the Covid pandemic put a stop to a lot of these activities. She is hoping to have another exhibit with her most talented students in the near future. 

Her current project is called “mi jardín interior”—my interior garden, in which she taps into the feminine spirit. The works she has created, and continues to create within this theme, tend to take circular shapes. Some are obviously shaped like seashells, others have more ambiguous forms that are reminiscent of shells, plants, or other marine or terrestrial objects. Some of them are truncated, some appear partially broken, and all of them have openings. What she is attempting to express with these works is that a woman’s espíritu femenino—the feminine spirit. Through these ceramic pieces she wants to show that a woman’s “feminine” always remains at the core, no matter even if you lose part of yourself through mental trauma or because of a physical loss through surgery, for example. Her hope is to have an exhibit of these works, along with those of her students, sometime this year. Contact Rosa to visit her studio, or to find out about classes. You can call or message at WhatsApp: 415-114-9401

Natalie Taylor: BA in English Lit and Journalism, Loyola University, Chicago, 1995. MFA in Creative Writing, Vermont College, Montpelier, VT, 1999. Published writer, editor, journalist. Spanish teacher in the US, English teacher in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Translator. Contact: