Friday, April 13, 2012

Mata Ortiz Pottery

Last week just off the main square in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I stepped into Andrea Fisher Fine Pottery, a retail gallery specializing in the finest examples of Native American pottery of the Southwest, both historic and contemporary. They have an impressive collection from San Ildelfonso potter Maria Montoya Martinez (1887-1980) and other famed Native American potters of the past like the Hopi revivalist Nampeyo of Hano (1860-1942), and the originator of the modern storyteller figurine, Helen Cordero (1915-1994) of the Cochiti Pueblo.      What I found most impressive was what appeared to me to be the largest and most comprehensive display in the store, the pottery from the rural village of Mata Ortiz in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.  The story of Mata Ortiz pottery began with Juan Quezada (b. 1940)--now an international potter star and folk hero of his community--who, inspired by his finds of pottery shards from the ancient Casa Grande culture and its great city of Paquime, began making pottery in the early 1970's.   A chance discovery of his pots in Bob's Swap Shop in Deming, New Mexico in 1976 by anthropologist Spencer McCallum ultimately led to the master artisan.   The definitive history of Juan and those of his village who followed his path is well told in the book by Walter P. Parks pictured below. Today, throughout the Southwest, you will find commonly find Mata Ortiz pottery on display alongside with the pottery from the Pueblos of the Southwest USA .     

THE MIRACLE OF MATA ORTIZ by Walter P. Parks, 1993