While plowing a field near the Mexican village of Mata Ortiz, in the 1970’s, Paquime Indian farmer Juan Quezada discovered shards of prehistoric pottery.
Intrigued, he learned how to replicate his ancestors’ achievements, through trial and error. Now, his family, and the whole village, are world-wide magnets for pottery collectors.
Related to the Native culture of the southwest (many Pueblo people fled the resumption of Spanish rule after the Pueblo Revolt failed, in the late 1600’s), the traditional designs of the Mata Ortiz potters are similar to those on Pueblo pottery.
The basic techniques are the same: hand gathered and mixed clay, coiled, smoothed, scraped, stone polished at times, painted with natural clay slip and vegetal pigments, and pit fired.
This beguiling effigy bowl is beautifully stone polished, and might be inspired by a very old original shard.
Hand fabricated with skill and refinement, it is nicely formed, with a sculpted face, wings and tail, and painted with linear designs in a matte clay slip.
The designs resemble the fine-line motifs on Pueblo pots, signifying rain, and water. Northern Mexico is in the same high desert as its northern neighbor.
The finish is gorgeous; ink-black stone polish, that is densely lustrous. Clever design of the effigy, as well.
Formed by coiling, the coils are invisibly smoothed, inside and out.
Some of my colleagues say it is a frog, but I see wings and a tail, not legs, making it an owl.
Owls are honored by the Zuni as protectors and guardians. They alert the village by hooting, when danger approaches.
This effigy bowl, by any name, is delightful, and expertly made. When it is yours, you are free to call it whatever you like.
Note: DO NOT put any liquid in this bowl unless you prefer a mound of mud to a fine piece of pottery.