A rollicking, delightful, creative, and beautifully fabricated olla that is a major find.
The farmers of Mata Ortiz, in northern Mexico, are descended from Pueblo people who fled south, after the reinstatement of Spanish rule in 1692.
They have become renowned for traditionally made pottery that contains echoes of their Pueblo heritage, along with the individual artist’s own touches.
This wonderful olla is impeccably and traditionally made: hand-gathered local clay was mixed, coiled, smoothed, and incised all by hand, with red clay slip, and black plant-derived paint, just as it would be north of the border.
The exuberant design is the potter’s own inspiration, with echoes of tradition.
The beige base clay is lightly incised into overlapping rounded “scales”, each one punctuated by a black dot.
This creates a subtle all-over texture and sprightly polka-dot background.
Dark red clay slip forms a geometric border at the top rim, and the bottom.
Incised parallel lines form triangles that alternate direction; reminiscent of traditional Pueblo rainfall designs.
Water is a blessing in the high desert, whether north or south of man-made borders.
But the major design achievement is the fabulous pair of horses that dominate the body of the pot.
So elaborately decorated as to look embroidered, these realistically formed horses display many more, traditional Pueblo motifs that relate to water.
These include: parallel lines in many different configurations, dots and little circles that refer to water drops, stepped rain and kiva shapes, wave-like forms that delineate the manes, and the bellies, etc.
These are brilliantly arranged to emphasize the physical form of the horses, as well.
Exceptional in design and execution, this olla is also remarkable in price.
If it had been made in the United States’ Pueblo country, it would be priced much, much higher.
So, praise the Mexican economy and the talented potter, who incorporated much of his ancestors’ symbolism in a refreshingly different and delicious way.