The Thin-Walled Pottery of Mata Ortiz
To Contact: This artisan’s page is part of the Feria Maestros del Arte website, a non-profit organization providing a yearly venue for Mexican folk artisans to come together to sell their work. If you wish to purchase the artisan's work other than at the Feria, you MUST contact them directly.
C. Pearson #10, Loc Juan Mata Ortiz
The story of Mata Ortiz began in the rough cattle country of northern Chihuahua, hardly the place to find an artistic folkart movement. Yet a few dozen miles south of the rugged San Luis Mountains, the residents of Mata Ortiz produce a thin-walled, finely painted ceramic ware rivaling any handmade pottery in the world.
Juan Quezada grew up in the surrounding mountains and as a boy found pottery sherds from outlying areas around the ruins of a great city called Paquimé. He wondered about the ancient indigenous people and how they made such objects. When he had time at home, he dug clay in the arroyos, soaked it, and tried to make pots. They all cracked. Gradually, step by step, he mastered the process. Without any instruction, he had recreated the entire ceramic technology from clay preparation to firing, using only shards to guide him.
In 1974 Quezada decided to try and survive making his pottery. The sale of just one pot equaled one day’s wages and sometimes more. Within a decade, Juan Quezada was selling his pottery in the US but it wasn’t until he met an American trained in anthropology and art history, Spencer MacCallum, that Juan’s fame began to spread throughout the galleries of New Mexico and Arizona. This story continues in a fascinating tale that has changed the lives of every resident of Mata Ortiz.