Lovers of ceramic arts may well know what Mata Ortiz pottery is, but for those who are less familiar with pottery, or with Mexican handicrafts, Mata Ortiz pottery is very unique!
Mata Ortiz Pottery
Mata Ortiz Pottery is a recreation of examples pre-Hispanic pottery found in and around the archaeological site of Paquimé in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It is, in fact, named after the modern town of Mata Ortiz which sits near the site. In Mata Ortiz a man called Juan Quezada Celado learned how to recreate it himself, and then went on to update it! By the mid to late 1970’s he was selling this updated recreation pottery, and began to teach others how to make it themselves. Not long after Mata Ortiz pottery began to penetrate the U.S and international markets.
By the 1990s Mata Ortiz pottery was being displayed in cultural exhibits and museums, even being sold in fine art galleries. This pottery, which is sold for its aesthetic rather than pragmatic value, has achieved great success and has actually brought Mata Ortiz out of poverty because most of its population now earns money directly or indirectly from the industry that has grown around it.
Mata Ortiz Town
The wider production of this pottery began in the 1980’s and these days there are around 300 of the 2,000 inhabitants in the town who make a living from making these ceramics. Another two thirds of the town benefit indirectly from the craft either because they produce fuel for the kilns or because they cater to tourists who come to see the town. What’s more the Mata Ortiz Pottery industry is fair equal; there are women of all talents and expertise in the business.
Paquimé Archaeological site
The proximity of Mata Ortiz town to the Paquimé archaeological site is key to the development of the ceramics trade. Paquimé is one of the biggest and most important sites in Northwest Mexico, and excavations of it began between 1958 and 1961 by archaeologist Charles C. Di Peso. Since then the Mexican cultural museum (Museo de las Cultural del Norte) has been opened at Paquimé and the site has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Paquimé pottery was very similar to the larger, more well-known family of pottery called Pueblo Pottery. This pottery shows influences from Arizona, New Mexico and Central Mexico along with elements unique to the area.