Mata Ortiz Pottery: A Forty-Year Phenomenon

contemporary Mexican pottery created in a remote Chihuahua villa

Ortiz Group Pieces

June 9–August 25, 2007

Opening Reception & Book Signing by Walter Parks and Shelly Dale: Saturday, June 9, 6-9 pm

Mata Ortiz Pottery: A Forty-Year Phenomenon is the inspirational story of one man, Juan Quezada, who changed the future of his extremely poor, largely abandoned community by establishing a handcrafted pottery industry. The exhibition will provide a number of valuable learning experiences: workshops, tours, lectures, demonstrations, and explanatory videos.

Mata Ortiz pottery making, single-handedly revived by Juan Quezada, began with his attempt to duplicate ancient Mimbres and Casas Grandes pottery styles of the 13th and 14th centuries. Shards from this era, found by Quezada in nearby fields, inspired his quest for replicating the original processes. In 1976, American anthropologist Spencer MacCallum “discovered” Quezada and promoted his pots. The artist shared his good fortune by generously teaching family members and friends to make pottery to sell. The new potters taught others, and they in turn taught still more people, bringing about a nearly miraculous metamorphosis of an entire neighborhood. Today, pottery-making is the main occupation of Mata Ortiz, where it is practiced by over 400 community members. Mata Ortiz pottery has become highly collectable throughout the world.

Juan Quezada’s story will be told through a series of pots (on loan from the Museum of Man) exemplifying his early trial-and-error attempts. Three more decades of Quezada’s creative evolution and technical mastery will be shown along with works by thirty other notable Mata Ortiz potters. A wide variety of forms and techniques will be exhibited, including ollas and effigies executed in a various clay bodies (red, buff, white, cream, black) and embellished with slip painting, carving, marbling, sgraffito, or graphite application.

Special Events:

  • Mata Ortiz Pottery Demonstration Workshop: Sunday, June 10th, 9am-4 pm, Fee: $65. Featuring a rare appearance by Juan Quezada, his son Noe Quezada, and Diego Valle. Continental breakfast, demonstrations of forming, decorating, and firing, a panel discussion, and Mata Ortiz pottery sale.
  • Coil a Pot Workshop: Saturday, June 23, 12-4pm, Fee: $10 adults, $5 children 12 & under. Form a Mata Ortiz-style pot using pinch and coil methods.
  • Guest Lecture: Saturday, July 7th, 2 pm, free with admission. Author Walter Parks will present his lecture “The Miracle of Mata Ortiz”
  • Pottery Market: Saturday, July 14th, 12-9 pm, free. Southern California potters sell their original ceramic artwork.