Mata Ortiz Pottery

In the region of what is now the vast desert of Northern Chihuahua there once existed a great cultural and trading center known as Casas Grandes. Similar to the Anasazi at Mesa Verde, this thriving indigenous society seemed to one day vanish without a trace, leaving behind nothing more than deteriorating artifacts and frustrating clues for scientists to speculate over the rich cultural traditions of the Casas Grandes pueblo people. This was true until the early 1970's, when a young man named Juan Quezada resurrected the age-old ceramic traditions of the region by developing an innovative pot-making process known as the single coil method. Miraculously, his only guides were ancient pottery shards found about the tiny village of Mata Ortiz, located just outside the original Casas Grandes ruins. As in the ancient tradition, the process incorporates only local materials found in the nearby mountains, from the coveted clays to the oxides used in the rich paints that adorn the completed pots. Even more remarkable, each delicate piece is formed without the use of a potter's wheel or other mechanical assistance, yet the finished pots and their intricate geometric designs are often perfectly symmetrical. The end result is often worthy of standing alongside the art of even our most talented contemporary artists. Yet remember it was Juan Quezada just 30 years ago that resurrected and ultimately perfected the ancient craft, thereby inspiring the citizens of his small village and bringing broad international recognition to their forgotten ceramic tradition.

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