Mata Ortiz has recently seen a revival of an ancient Mesoamerican pottery tradition. Inspired by pottery from the ancient city of Paquime, which traded as far north as New Mexico and Arizona and throughout northern Mexico, modern potters are producing work for national and international sale. This new artistic movement is due to the efforts of Juan Quezada, the self-taught originator of modern Mata Ortiz pottery, his extended family and neighbors.
Mata Ortiz pots are hand built without the use of a potter’s wheel. Shaping, polishing and painting the clay is entirely done by hand, often with brushes made from children’s hair. All materials and tools originate from supplies that are readily available locally. The preferred fuel for the low temperature firing is grass-fed cow manure or split wood. Each of these characteristics derive from the ancient pottery traditions of the region, however Mata Ortiz ware incorporates elements of contemporary design and decoration and each potter or pottery family produces distinctive individualized ware.
Young clay workers from surrounding areas have been attracted to the Mata Ortiz revival and have joined Quezada and his associates. New potting families developed and the art movement continues to expand. A vibrant flow of new ideas, without the restraints of traditional practices or gender constraints, has enabled the pottery of Mata Ortiz to avoid derivative repetition common to folk art movements. This blend of cultural expression, economic need and artistic freedom has produced a unique artistic movement in the community.