The phrase, "Mata Ortiz" is often associated with our pottery collection but few may know the meaning.
Mata Ortiz pottery has a unique and fascinating history. In the 1950s, Juan Quezada discovered pottery shards outside of his village of Juan Mata Ortiz, in the northern Provence of Chihuahua, Mexico. The pottery fragments revealed to be from the ancient Paquime, Casas Grandes, and Mimbres civilizations. Intrigued, Juan became dedicated in reviving the lost process of natural ceramic production decorated with elaborate designs. After years of effort and trial and error, Juan's pottery began to take public notice as he taught his friends and neighbors this lost technique. Today, the process and tradition of making pottery in Mata Ortiz has revolutionized the entire town as the craft is taught from generation to generation. Mata Ortiz pottery is now world renown, highly sought after, and collected.
The pots, or ollas, are hand crafted and often made by the artists in their homes. The process of mining, sculpting, firing, and then hand painting the pottery can be labor intensive. The clay and minerals are locally mined. Then, using their hands and simple tools, the artisans sculpt and sand the pots using a coil technique. Firing the pots can be done the traditional way in open ground or pit ovens with low temperatures using cow manure or wood, or the modern kiln can be used.
Designs are then free hand painted onto the pot using delicate brushes of children's hair. The Mata Ortiz pots are inspired by the designs of their ancestors - intricate, symbolic, and detailed. Complex patterns of an array of colors and paints make each pot special. Innovation and experimentation by the artisans has led to an evolution of unique styles and designs, thus creating their own artistic language. The pioneering of bold, contemporary designs with ancestral influence and tradition makes Mata Ortiz pottery a thrilling and ever changing art movement.
Married couple, Antonio Silveira and Lorena Lopez, moved from Mata Ortiz, Mexico, to Moab, Utah, a few years ago. They bring to Utah their craft, knowledge, and talent, much to the interest of the state. Silveira and Lopez work with Artes de Mexico en Utah, a program to promote and display original Mexican art in Utah. We are honored to have an exquisite selection of Mata Ortiz pottery produced by these artisans at Modern West Fine Art.
By Jill Lingwall