Mata Ortiz, Paquimé and Casas Grandes Pottery


Pottery was first produced over 800 years ago in an area of Northern Mexico
called Casas Grandes or Paquimé. At first the pots were crude but evolved
through trade with other cultures. The Paquimé culture peaked sometime in the 13th or 14th century and then disappeared for reasons that remain unknown.

Juan Quezada
Juan Quezada

In 1976, Anthropologist Spencer MacCallum discovered three intriguing handmade ceramic pots in a secondhand store in New Mexico. While they resembled ancient pots of the region, they were actually new. After much investigation, Spencer discovered the pots, or "ollas", had been made in the small Mexican village of Mata Ortiz, in the mountains of the state of Chihuahua, by Juan Quezada.
Juan had recreated the ancient pottery making techniques of the Paquimé Indians with only shards of the excavated pottery to go by.

Spencer's discovery and subsequent meeting with Juan Quezada set off a chain of events, often referred to as "The Miracle of Mata Ortiz."

Spencer MacCallum
Spencer MacCallum

Nearly 400 of the 2,000 inhabitants of Mata Ortiz are now producing pottery, slowly transforming the community from one of impoverishment to one of economic stability. Every stage of production of the pottery is done completely by hand, and each one-of-a-kind piece is purchased directly from the potter. Raw clay and pigment for the pots and paints are collected from the rich deposits found in surrounding hills and valleys. The potter's hand's form the pots, the hair of children is used to make the paint brushes, and the firing is done in the back yard with wood and cow dung as the fuel.

Over the years, experimentation, refinement, and creativity have taken place at all stages of production. Consequently, the potters are more skilled and innovative than ever, earning Mata Ortiz the reputation of a major pottery-producing center, and the status of one of the most skillful of it's kind.

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