Pottery is one of the most widespread art forms to be found in Peru. Ancient pre-Hispanic techniques used by the Vicús, Recuay and Pashash cultures, as well as styles known as Colombian and negative painting (by limiting the flow of oxygen in the furnace) are used today in the community of Chulucanas (located in Piura) and in the northern jungle by natives of the Arabelas community.
Another Pottery technique used in Simbilá, Piura, as well as in Mollepampa, Cajamarca, is that of paleteo, where the potter shapes the clay with his hands and by beating it with a spatula. Utilitarian and decorative pottery produced in Chulucanas -particularly in the district of La Encantada, where 250 artisans have been registered- is one of the finest to be found in Peru. It has gained its fame from the fine motifs crafted by potters in the use of the black color and the glazing of their urns, as well as the portrayal of typical local characters (chicha vendors, musicians and dancers) and animals that spring from the hand-worked clay.
Pottery is heavily traded in the markets of Cusco, Juliaca (Puno), Arequipa and a network of arts and crafts centers and fairs held in Lima.
In Quinua, a village located 40 km from Ayacucho, pottery is the town's main activity. The quality of the red and cream-colored clay lend these works a unique characteristic. Despite their simple, almost childish forms, they are highly expressive. Quinua is best-known for ceramic pieces such as small churches, chapels, houses and bulls called the toro de Quinua. Local potters have also become popular for figures such as peasant farmers, gossiping neighbors and a variety of religious themes.
The best-loved ceramic figure to come out of Puno is the torito de Pucará, the ceramic bull that is one of Peru's best-known pieces of pottery. The figurine was originally made as a ritual element during the cattle-branding ceremony. The bull figure, which is also a flask, was used to hold the chicha which was mixed with the blood of cattle and drunk by the high priest conducting the ceremony. Puno potters also make churches, country chapels and homes, whose apparently unassuming design is covered with a white glaze. The figures are decorated with flowers and dashes of ground glass. Other common motifs include musicians, dancers and various elements of flora and fauna from the Lake Titicaca area.
Cusco's pottery is heavily influenced by Inca tradition. In a movement that has revitalized Cusco art, known as Inca Renaissance, potters have created a vast collection of pieces. These include the Tica Curuna (a flower motif), ppucus (dishes) and various types of colorful crockery, such as keros, arybalos, qochas, ayanas and raquis. Another trend in pottery is the so-called "grotesque" tradition, originally created by artisan Erilberto Mérida, and apparently inspired by the figures in Quinua pottery. This style comprises rough, unpolished figurines such as peasants and Christs, with deformed and even tormented facial features with oversized hands.
In the jungle, in addition to the Arabela, the Shipibo women living around the Ucayali River produce pottery from a highly malleable clay called neapo. The most common decorative motifs include the well-known geometric lines or designs, which artisans use to represent their vision of the world. The most elaborate objects include globets carved into shapes that are half-human, half-beast, which take on different positions, showing clearly-defined sexes. The potters also frequently craft huge jars shaped like animals such as tortoise and some of the local bird species.