New Collection of Mata Ortiz Pottery
By Susan Page
Mata Ortiz pottery is among the most exquisitely beautiful and finely executed pottery being made anywhere in the world today. Galería Atotonilco owner Mayer Shacter was recently able to acquire a stunning array of pieces at very reasonable prices. He will feature this new collection and pass the savings along to customers at a gallery open house, Saturday and Sunday, March 28 and 29, from noon to 5pm.
Featuring a new collection of Mata Ortiz Pottery
Sat, Mar 28 and Sun, Mar 29, 12pm-5pm
The story behind Mata Ortiz pottery is often referred to as a miracle. If not a true miracle, the story certainly qualifies as remarkable. Mata Ortiz is a tiny village in the state of Chihuahua near the town of Casas Grandes. Near the town are the ruins of a pueblo of ancient Pacame Indians, an Anasazi tribe who abandoned the area about a thousand years ago. In the early 1960s, a young man named Juan Quezada, having little to do with his time, wandered in the hills and began to collect shards of pottery left by the ancient tribe. As he fit the shards together to form partial pots, completely on his own he figured out how to mix the nearby clay into workable material, form, decorate, and fire a pot. Just as the first stone-age people had to figure it out, Quezada again started from scratch and was eventually making credible pots.
Several of his pots made their way into a small shop just across the U.S border in Deming, New Mexico. There, they were spotted by an American anthropologist who took the better part of a year to trace the pots back to Juan Quezada in Mata Ortiz, and when he did, he strongly encouraged him and told him, “I’ll buy anything you make.”
Other members of Quezada’s family began making pots also, and then neighbors, and more neighbors.
The pots were discovered by collectors and by the 1980s began to command extremely high prices. The miracle of Mata Ortiz is not just that Quezada taught himself completely from scratch and recreated an ancient tradition in modern times. Equally miraculous is the astonishing skill that now runs through the entire village. Over 200 families now make a living selling these pots all over the world. San Miguel residents and visitors have a rare opportunity right now to see a large collection of Mata Ortiz pottery — all in one place at one time!
The show that opened last month, featuring world famous ceramic artist Gustavo Pérez, is still on display at the gallery as well.
Galería Atotonilco exhibits a wide variety of folk art from all over Mexico. The 5,000 square feet of exhibition space is five miles north of town. Directions are in the gallery’s ad in this issue. The public is welcome to attend the open house.