Casas Grandes/Paquime Renaissance Pottery from Mata Ortiz
The clay is hand-dug, worked and formed into a continuous coil that builds the pots. The technique is called the coil and scrape method. No pottery wheels are used to create these pots, just the potter’s hands. The base of the pot was traditionally shaped within the broken bottom portion of another pot. In contemporary times the bases are shaped on shallow plaster molds. The pots are allowed to air dry and then are sanded multiple times with increasingly finer grades of sandpaper. This sanding compresses the clay and makes the surface very consistent to allow for the very fine painting.
The pots, if they are to be the shiny black, are coated with a mixture of kerosene and graphite which is rubbed into the pot by hand then polished with a stone. These pots are then handpainted and fired, the ash is washed off, then the pot is signed. If the pot is to have a colored base it is painted first. The designs on this pottery come from the ancient culture of Paquime; people that create this pottery are descendants of those who lived in this vast southwestern area of North America. These were Puebloan peoples and some of their building techniques as well as their feathers, shells, and pottery making were passed on. The indigenous peoples traded knowledge and goods as they traveled and lived among one another.
The pottery today has lines that are delicately drawn freehand on the varied shapes of the hand built pots and painted with tiny brushes made from human hair. The etching is done with common nails. It’s truly a unique experiment in combining contemporary methods with prehistoric tradition. This custom, lost to time, has grown out of the curiosity and ingenuity of Juan Quezada and others who have perfected the technique. Mata Ortiz pottery is found in museums and private collections around the world, including the US, Canada, Japan and Europe.