In the town of Valdivia, around the corner from the archaeological museum and a couple yards back up a side street, is a modest-appearing artisan's shop. These are the premises of Juan Esteban Orrala, sculptor.
This gentleman's workshop - like many throughout Latin America - is at the front of his and his family's house. Sr. Orrala makes and sells reproductions of pre-columbian and pre-Incan ceramics. He specializes in the pottery whistles that are characteristic of antiquities in the area around his home. His wife runs the cash-flow and negotiation sides of the business.
And down below on the left is a photo of a reproduction I bought from Sr. Orrala for 30 bucks. This is a conjoined vessel based on ceramics from Ecuador's Chorrera period, from 900 to 300 BC. This was the most archaeologically widespread culture in Ecuador, characterized by objects like whistle-bottles that reproduce the sounds of different animals when water is poured into them. I ask you, how cool is that? And how cool is it that an artist in Valdivia specializes in these reproductions?
Sr. Orrala also reproduces the characteristic Valdivian ceramic figurines of women, each about 2-3 inches high. These figurines are unmistakable - remember the heavily-moussed and -AquaNetted helmet-hair that was so popular with American women during the late 1980s-early 1990s? Apparently, that hairstyle is about 5000 years old. The Valdivian female figurines rock helmet-hair like you wouldn't believe.
Orrala also faithfully reproduces the pre-columbian rectangular ceramic stamps used for printing textiles and making body art. He remarked to me that he bases some of his reproductions - especially his stamps and his smaller whistles - on the designs of the pre-columbian artifacts he and his family have unearthed from under their own house. He even showed me one of these originals. It looks and feels much different from his reproductions - grayer and much heavier for its size than modern clay pieces.
From what I learned that day in Valdivia, the whole present-day town might still be sitting upon a megaton of artifacts many thousands of years old. A guy probably can't even plant tomatoes in his garden without running into some pesky ceramic artifact or other. What a pain.
I can vouch that Sr. Orrala's whistles are fully functional. My favorite is the cute little ceramic owl whistle you see in this pic over here. It stands about 3-1/2 inches tall and has 3 holes in the back; when properly played, it accurately reproduces the hoot of a small owl. That is, if Sr. Orrala or his wife blow into it - I still can't make it sound right.
Time to go backto Valdivia for some whistlin' lessons.