A map of the Rio Grande Valley that features different scenes. People are collaborating throughout the different scenes on the map.
Illustration by Ruby Delgado.

Quién Es Tu Gente: Las Ceramic Artists del Valle

Words by Melissa Cortes 

Edited by Abigail Vela 

¿Quién es Tu Gente?” is an article series highlighting people and organizations creating safe and inclusive spaces in the RGV. This series hopes to combat the all too common idea of “no ay nada aqui en el Valle” and encourage our readers to go out and find their gente.

We’ve all heard it or even said the phrase ourselves, “Aqui en el Valle no ay nada que hacer!” Now, don’t feel too guilty; we’ve all fallen victim to that mentality at one point or another. However, contrary to popular belief, the Rio Grande Valley is a complex community filled with vibrant culture and is home to many cultural gems. 

 

One of those cultural gems is the transformative world of ceramics. Many of us may have seen ceramics content in our TikTok or Instagram feeds or been exposed to it through popular movies like Ghost, an infamous movie among potters. The art form may seem intimidating due to its intricate and lengthy process, but it is deeply rooted in our Mexican heritage and our region’s history.

 

Recently, the number of ceramic studios throughout the RGV has gone up, which is excellent news for anyone hoping to try their hand at the art. Ceramics isn’t necessarily the most accessible practice. It often requires expensive equipment and, as mentioned before, can be incredibly time-consuming. The inaccessibility can pose a significant barrier for anyone who isn’t committed to spending $1,400 on a pottery wheel. 

 

Luckily, the recently opened studios are acutely aware of this barrier. They are working to dismantle it and create a space where established artists and beginners can freely explore their creativity. 

Meet the Studio Owners!

A woman in a black sweater standing in front of a colorful mural featuring cartoon characters.
Annelise, owner of Annebrije Pottery Studio, derives a lot of inspiration from cartoons. She hoped to create a colorful and playful space where people could explore their creativity. Photo Courtesy of Annelise.
Souther Recio, owner and operator of Cactus Valley Art, hopes to foster a space for community members to try their hand at various art forms. Photo Courtesy of Brandie Martinez, Marketing Coordinator and Content Specialist for HED.

Being the first to establish something really sets you apart from anyone else. However, that’s what artists Souther Recio and Annelise have in common. They were the first to establish their studio spaces in Harlingen and Brownsville. 

 

I tried really hard to create a space that wasn’t intimidating and for everybody to just feel calm coming in and exploring it. Even if they feel like they’re not gonna be good at it, that doesn’t matter. There’s no criticism,” said Annelise, owner and operator of Annebrije Pottery Studio in Brownsville. 

 

Annelise first tried a pottery class while in Guadalajara to take a much-needed break from her medical school studies. She instantly fell in love with the art and after participating in numerous residencies, eagerly waited for the moment she could return home to Brownsville to share the craft with her community. 

“There’s such a Hispanic influence here like most of us are Mexican, and there’s so much ceramics in Mexico. I just really wanted people to explore that part of themselves and their heritage,” she said. 

 

Annelise returned home earlier this year, and Annebrije Pottery Studio was finally established. The studio offers classes for beginners and memberships for anyone looking for a place to practice. Being the only pottery studio in Brownsville, Annelise hopes to foster an inclusive space for community members and local artists to learn the art and build community. 

Half an hour away in Harlingen, Souther Recio, owner and operator of Cactus Valley Art and Supply Company, the only indie art supply store in the RGV, shares a similar vision. 

“I want it to feel like a welcoming space where people feel comfortable letting loose and getting creative. I really try to cultivate a safe space to make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t come out perfect. That’s how I learned,  through the mistakes, so I try to help foster that,” she said. 

Recio opened Cactus Valley last year, taking over the studio space of her mentor, Carla Hughes. She hoped to keep the studio’s community-oriented feel. They host events like Queer Craft Night and Play with Clay to provide a safe space for community members to get involved with the arts. Cactus Valley has a gallery featuring local artists, and many exhibitions speak on social issues such as immigration and institutional poverty.


“I think art can be super powerful. It’s a great way to tell a story, and there are so many beautiful facets of our community represented here. I have this space, and if someone wants to use it to share their voice or their story, let’s do it!” said Recio. 

Community Impact

As these studios continue to flourish and make pottery more accessible, they provide a platform for people to express themselves, connect with their heritage, and contribute to our culture. Recio and Annelise’s efforts show how art can transform our communities and create a more inclusive space. They are reshaping perceptions of the RGV and helping dismantle the all-too-common and blatantly false idea of “no ay nada aqui.” 

 

So, next time you catch yourself or someone else saying that phrase, kindly correct them and invite them to take a pottery class. Opening yourself up to a new experience can take you places you wouldn’t have imagined, and who knows, you might just find your gente!

 

“Don’t sell the Valley short. There’s so much more here than I could have ever imagined, and I think it’s always been here. There are people out there for you, the community is there, you just have to show up and be yourself.” said Recio. 

Mira Más

Colorful illustration of the Museum of South Texas History (MOSTH), a building of white walls and orange rooftops, and people walking into the museum.
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