Friday, April 23, 2010

The Mexican Pottery Village of Mata Ortiz

Isidro Ortiz decorating one of his amazing pots.

The finished product. One of these belongs to me now!

We were graciously invited into homes to view and purchase pottery
These are signed simply "Elda"

Pottery was displayed wherever there was room in the homes.

The proud artist- Diana Loya

People would find you on the street and unwrap their wares.

Some scenes from the village

A beautiful rural mountain setting.

I love contrasts.

These handsome gents were chilling by the bridge which opened up to a spectacular walk for our group.

One of the blessings of our Arizona abode is the proximity to any number of wonderful destinations, whether by plane or road.

I've lived in Alaska for over 30 years and it's no small feat to hop in the car and get yourself to an exotic location. Not to say that Alaska isn't exotic in itself but we only have a few highways going across that vast state and there are plenty of driving concerns part of the year with darkness, subzero temps and icy conditions. (although we are known to take a road trip at the drop of a hat to hit a good hot springs on a frosty day)
We have to drive through Canada just to get to the rest of the states and that takes a couple of days of marathon driving. That being said it is pure delight to be able to drive to the pottery village of Mata Ortiz in just four hours from our Arizona home.

We had a group of folks piled into our friend Julio's Subaru (he's Italian from Brooklyn despite his Spanish sounding name) We did have our Spanish speaking friend Patricia with us that helped in translation at the checkpoints. We brought along another Alaskan snowbird type for the ride. Armed with our free weeklong visas, plenty of water and a few dineros for pots and lodging for our overnight trip, we hit the road.

We stopped in the town of Casas Grandes to meet the original promoter of the Mata Ortiz tradition of pottery making, Spencer McCallum. You can read the story of the beginnings of the new tradition of Mata Ortiz Pottery making here. He gave us a tour of the new church in town with it's spectacular murals. I'll save those photos for another post. We went to the museum of Central Cultural Paquime that had the Paquime archaeological ruins that are over 1300 years old and examples of the ancient original pottery from the area.

The village of Mata Ortiz is a short drive from the the town of Casas Grandes. There's only one lodge in the village that includes three meals in the price. We didn't notice any other restaurants in town so I think that was our only option unless we wanted to stay in Casas Grandes.

The folks of the village immediately set up their displays outside the lodge upon our arrival.
Word gets out fast as we were the only outside visitors to the town that day. Between the economy woes and fear of travel to Mexico, business has come to a crushing halt for this village that relies almost solely on their pottery business to survive.

We did our best to inject our dollars and pump up the local economy for the short time we were there. Julio broke the record with the grande total of 26 pots, we came in second with 16 not counting the little bitty ones we hope to bring back to share with Alaskans. With two weddings and two birthdays coming up we are armed for some gift-giving.

It was overwhelming to say the least when there were so many artists to choose from and so many styles, we tried to spread our purchases around but we had to overlook so many spectacular pots and had packing and baggage and space issues to consider once we got home.

I have to say that the people were mellow and gracious in what had to be an extremely competitive environment with artists that are desperate for some cash just to exist.

The village itself was in a stunning location almost a mile high ringed by mountains. We Alaskans remarked how similar it felt to an Alaskan Native village in climate and surroundings, much like Fort Yukon or Galena without the huge river running through. We walked freely through the village snapping photos with a few folks catching up to us in their vehicles hoping to show their wares.


  1. Your post SO took me on a mini-vacation that my eyes teared up and my throat constricted. I am currently in a WAY working-too-much mode and you reminded me I need to nourish my soul with things and places new and intriguing. Thank you, Kim, for a profound lesson I didn't expect today!

  2. LimesNow,
    Retirement is grand. I highly recommend it!
    Thanks for your comments. Maybe I'll do an Alaskan retreat someday at the Garaj Mahal ( where my studio is)


  3. What a wonderful escape! Such beautiful natural pottery that so reflects the nature and people of that area. Thanks for sharing these stunning photos!

  4. That's a great post Kim.....thanks for posting .......are the pots handbuilt ,coiled or thrown? ..looks like its a mixture ....the lustre glaze on the first pic ( or on your pot)looks amazing ...........what sort of kilns do they have ?...sorry too many questions will look it up ...anyway thanks I enjoyed reading and looking ...xx

  5. Artymess Lorna, Thanks-
    They are all coiled and they just have little enclosed fire pits for firing. Very basic. I should have been more thorough in my post but I was still in bed with my coffee, so excited to put the pictures up!
    We bought a few from a one handed girl that was making pots better than any I could make. She wouldn't let me take her picture though.

  6. How beautiful those pots. I am always amazed by the definition and precision these artists use in their work, so graphic and strong. What a lovely trip and some gifts you will treasure.

  7. What a great trip! Thanks for taking us along. The pieces look stunning.

  8. I forgot to mention that I was able to get some really nice pieces of broken pots for really cheap and some were even given to me. I hope to use them in future assemblage or jewelry.

  9. Kim, you are so right...this pottery is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  10. Lovely mouth watering post, Kim. My heart is fluttering at the thought of browsing through all this glorious pottery. Great photos too.

  11. Love your pot pics & handwriting post (my family took up so much of my time!) I never got tied up being left handed, I was lucky I guess! Wasn't that a fun game!

  12. Just wanted to stop over and say hi. The pottery is beautiful, and I love your blog. I have been to Bisbee before and thought it was such a cool, little art town!
    Thanks for following my blog. :-) Have a great weekend!

  13. Thanks Becca,
    I agree Bisbee is so cool. We must have crossed paths just now as I visited your blog and left an Arizona rose for your mom.
    Emma, maybe you can still post a handwritten one sometime. there seem to be so many creative lefties around.
    Thanks Robyn, I know a lot of the pots are in your color palette from what I can tell from your blog.
    Dosfishes- did you know that some of the lines are painted with a paintbrush from one hair usually from their child's head.
    Linda, Thanks for your comments too, I appreciate them all.

  14. Incredible pots and interesting travels. Thanks for letting me in on it.
    "K" Is No Longer Silent

  15. The sky reminded me of New Mexico. The first time I went there, I was 14 years old and I fell in love with the landscape.

  16. I have I always heard about Mata Ortiz as one of the most amazing potter of all times. And after seeing her influence design and art work. I can't kept my self from admiring it. Hope to have one of her designs.Love it so much!

  17. Claypot,
    Mata Ortiz is actually the name of the village and it is comprised of many potters, all of them producing exquisite designs and some are quite unique to each artist as they each have a certain style of their own within Mata Ortiz.
    They are certainly collectible pieces and the level of craftsmanship is amazing to me as well.


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