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Exploring the Unique Designs and Techniques of Mata Ortiz Pottery

The village of Mata Ortiz is world-famous for its pottery. Inspired by pre-Hispanic symbols and art from the ruins of the ancient Paquime civilization, these hand-built ceramic forms are crafted from coveted clays and minerals unique to this region.

A self-taught potter who grew up in this small community began to recreate the pottery-building techniques that thrived before the Spanish arrived. Eventually, his extended family and neighbors joined him in the effort to revive this Oasisamerica tradition of pottery making.

Hand-Painting

One of the most distinctive varieties of pottery is Mata Ortiz pottery. It is made by hand, and the designs are painted with human hair brushes using colors from local sources.

The unique shapes, textures, and patterns used by Mata Ortiz artisans are unlike any other type of potter. Their work has steadily gained a following within the collector and fine art worlds.

The founder of Mata Ortiz Pottery began experimenting with clay-making in the 1970s and developed his style. Instead of using a wheel, he created his method by flattening a piece of clay into a “tortilla” and then pinching the coil to draw the clay upward.

After his death, his technique was passed on to a few relatives and neighbors in the village. Then a new generation of potting families began to emerge, and by the 1990s, as many as 300 people were working in Mata Ortiz.

Coiling

Modern residents of Mata Ortiz often find ancient pottery shards in the mountains around their town. But the techniques used to make them were lost for over 500 years until one resident devoted his life to rediscovering them.

Eventually, he created the style and techniques that now define Mata Ortiz Pottery. In doing so, he saved a village on the cusp of obscurity. He put it on a creative trajectory that has become a thriving pottery district known for its original, contemporary folk pottery.

Over the past 25 years, the community of Mata Ortiz has developed a pottery technology initiated by a singular individual inspired by prehistoric pottery made by the Casas Grandes culture. The pottery is constructed with local materials by coiling, pinching, and firing with dung, bark, or wood.

Firing

A unique form of pottery renowned worldwide, Mata Ortiz Pottery is created by hand using coiling and pinching methods. It also involves painting and sculpting designs before it is fired.

The potters of Mata Ortiz have revived a traditional art style that flourished 600-800 years ago in the area and is still alive today. Their re-creation of pre-Hispanic symbols and art from the ruins at Paquime is imprinted in the pottery they create and have given rise to a sophisticated creation of contemporary art.

Self-taught started this movement and has grown into a community of artisan potters that produce some of the finest handmade pieces in the world. They are a remarkable example of the artistic renaissance that has taken place in this tiny village of Mata Ortiz.

Decoration

In the tiny village of Mata Ortiz, modern residents often discover pottery shards reminiscent of ancient pre-Hispanic pots from Paquime. Taking these shards as his guides, the resident began to rediscover the techniques of the Casas Grandes ruins. He developed his style of Mata Ortiz pottery, which has since become world-renowned.

This unique style of pottery has quietly gained a following within the collector and fine art worlds. Each piece is created by hand without using a pottery wheel or kiln.

The artists of Mata Ortiz use sgraffito, cut-outs, vivid colors, refined figurines, and surface carving to achieve bold contemporary expression in their pottery. Their works are truly one-of-a-kind and a must for any collection.

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