MATA ORTIZ POTTERY

Mata Ortiz pottery is a recreation of the Mogollon pottery found in and around the archeological site of Casas Grandes (Paquimé) in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Named after the modern town of Mata Ortiz, which is near the archeological site, the style was propagated by Juan Quezada Celado. Quezada learned on his own to recreate this ancient pottery and then went on to update it. By the mid 1970s, Quezada was selling his pottery and teaching family and friends to make it and the pottery was able to penetrate the U.S. markets thanks to efforts by Spencer MacCallum and later Walt Parks along with Mexican traders. By the 1990s, the pottery was being shown in museums and other cultural institutions and sold in fine galleries. The success of the pottery, which is sold for its aesthetic rather than its utilitarian value, has brought the town of Mata Ortiz out of poverty, with most of its population earning income from the industry, directly or indirectly.

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Mata Ortiz potters generally work in their homes, with bedrooms often doubling as studios. The work space generally consists of just a table, with simple tools such as a hacksaw blade, a butter knife, broken spoons, sandpaper, a small stone and paintbrushes generally made from clippings of children’s hair, sometimes just four or five strands tied on a stick. The shaping of the clay is relatively faithful to the original Paquimé techniques, but each potter has their own variation in how they make their pots. However, they are generally based on Quesada’s single-coil method, using the gray, yellow, orange, red and white clays from the area just as those in Paquimé did. The paints are made from clay or from crushed minerals such as manganese, also mined locally.