Mata Ortiz Pottery at The FolkArt Gallery
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Mata Ortiz Pottery

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The tiny village of Mata Ortiz in the northern state of Chihuahua, Mexico has the look of antiquity about it. The crumbling buildings look as though they were built at the same time as the nearby ruins of the extinct Casas Grandes culture which flourished in the 11th through 13th centuries. Today, the potters who live here produce their wares inspired by the traditions that had already died out by the time of the Spanish conquest.

Attracted by the beauty of the prehistoric pottery shards of the Casas Grandes found near his village, Juan Quezada, a poor, uneducated young woodcutter, spent years experimenting with the local clays, mineral paints and firing techniques. At that time, there were no potters in Mata Ortiz and Juan Quezada independently invented a pottery technology from trial and error. He had never had a pottery lesson nor had he ever seen a potter work.

In a village with neither electricity, running water nor industry, and dependent on agriculture and open-range cattle raising for subsistence, Juan's pottery innovations created a whole new occupation for the villagers. Today, there are more than 300 artisans supporting themselves with their pottery, creating some of the finest hand-built pottery in the world. The new Casas Grandes pots now appear in the collections of great museums including the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, the Heard in Phoenix, the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles and the Museum of Man in San Diego.

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Mata Ortiz Pot

" The potters of Mata Ortiz...have created not merely a cottage crafts industry but an authentic new art movement with an uncommonly high degree of artistic integrity."

Spencer MacCallum
Social Anthropologist

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