Mata Ortiz, pottery ( also known as Casas Grande pottery) was revived when a farmer found intriguing pottery shards while plowing a field in northern Mexico, near the village of that name. Southwestern Pueblo refugees from the Spaniards, in the late 1600’s, are the ancestors of the villagers. Now, almost everyone in the village creates pottery, some following the original designs, and some creating their own, as seen in this fascinating olla. The work is fashioned just like the Pueblo pottery up North, all by hand, from digging the clay to the firing.
The intricate design features peacocks, against an irregularly formed, lacy web. The base clay is a creamy beige, covered with a red clay slip, marbled with black mineral paint. The peacocks and background web are etched, revealed in creamy lines against the red and black. the design forms a pattern of graceful curlicues and curves.
A band of the underlying cream clay encircles the shoulder of the piece, textured in fine parallel lines that match the lines etched in the webby design below. A parade of polished and marbled red diamonds march across, set on the diagonal. This band swoops down and around the whole body of the olla, even the base, effectively dividing it into two arched panels. The rim is matte red and black, even on the inside.
This is the artist’s original, personal design, using the body of the olla as a painter would use a canvas. Thanks to the difference in economies between the two nations, this complex and creative piece is astoundingly accessible.