The best place in La Arena  to get a sampling of the range of available ceramics is at the Mercado de Artesanías de Herrera (8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily), the white two-story building at the fork in the middle of town. It sells pieces from a variety of talleres (workshops). The prices are highly reasonable; a small pot costs US$2 or less.
It’s also possible to stop by the workshops themselves during work hours, and this is where you can find the best pieces. The most garish pieces are displayed outside. Don’t be dissuaded by this; go in and poke around. Visitors are welcome to step back into the workshop to see the wood-burning ovens, the drying rooms, the painting workshops, and so on.
Cerámica Marcelino (tel. 974-4801, 7:30 a.m.–6 p.m. daily) is at the west end of La Arena, where the road from Chitré  meets the road from Los Santos.
I especially like the work at Cerámica Calderón (tel. 974-4946 or 974-4157, early morning–late evening daily), a few houses closer to Chitré on the main road. Pieces here are well made, with clean designs and striking patterns. Those with the time can design their own pieces and have them made here.
Proprietor and lead designer Angel Calderón and his son, also called Angel, pull out books of photos and sketches of actual pre-Colombian ceramics, some of them museum pieces, and let you pick and choose designs you like. It’s possible to order a full, custom-made 12-piece dinner set for around US$250. They deliver to Panama City , but you may have to make your own arrangements to ship the pieces out of the country.
Sadly, I can’t recommend any shipping company. Someone I know used a highly regarded one and ended up with nothing but shards. If possible, pack it carefully and take it with you. Making a set takes several weeks.
Those interested in Panama-style Panama hats can find a street vendor with a good selection on Avenida Herrera near the cathedral .
While in Parita , pay a visit to the home workshop of Darío López (tel. 974-2015, 7 a.m.–5 p.m. daily). He’s nationally famous for his fearsome diablícos (devil masks), which are worn by dancers during the Corpus Christi Festival in nearby Villa de Los Santos . He’s been making them for 40 years, helped out in recent years by his nine children.
The large masks cost US$25 and take two days to make. Don’t expect to find them in stock close to Corpus Christi or other festivals, when they’re much in demand, but smaller models—including ones barely big enough to mask a finger—are usually on sale for significantly less.
López’s house, which is also his workshop, is on the highway, across the street from and north of the Shell station, near Calle José Angel Bosquez B. His home is next to Kiosco Chely. Look for devil masks hanging on the front of the house.