Mata Ortiz pottery is, actually, a recreation of pottery and shards found in the Paquimé archaeological site in the Mexican State of Chihuahua. This style was recreated, and then updated, by a man called Juan Quezada Celado and is named after his town of residence, Mata Ortiz, which is very close to the Paquimé site. Quezada Celado figured out how to recreate Paquimé pottery by himself, and by the 1970’s was selling it and teaching others how to make it themselves.
Mata Ortiz Pottery in Museums
By the early 1990s Mata Ortiz pottery had a place in museums, cultural institutions and was being exhibited and sold in fine art galleries. The pottery was so successful that it has pulled the town of Mata Ortiz out of the poverty it was in before. Most of the town’s 2,000 inhabitants earn a living through the pottery and ceramics industry both directly or indirectly.
The Rise of Mata Ortiz Pottery
The large scale making of pottery in Mata Ortiz began in the 1980s and today around about 300 people in the town make a living by creating these pieces of pottery. A further two thirds of the town make their living in ways indirectly related to the pottery industry; either by catering to the tourists it brings to the town or by, for example, delivering the fuel that keeps the kilns running. Before the pottery industry became the town staple there was only seasonal agriculture for men, and no work at all for the women. Now there are women of all levels of expertise and talent working in the many different areas associated with Mata Ortiz pottery.
Paquimé Archeological Site
The proximity of the town to the Paquimé archaeological site is one of the reasons that the Mata Ortiz pottery and ceramics industry there has flourished so entirely. Paquimé is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Northwest Mexico today, but it all started when excavations were undertaken by Charles C. Di Peso between 1958 and 1961.The local interest sparked was the reason for the establishing of the Meseo de las Culturas del Norte which was opened in 1997. The site has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1988.
Paquimé pottery and ceramics are not unlike Pueblo pottery, and in fact they seem to share some common elements. They both show influence from Arizona, New Mexico, and Central Mexico as well as incorporating vibrant and bold colours. Paquimé pottery was traded throughout North America, and today Mata Ortiz Pottery is traded throughout the whole world.