Polychrome melon jar with organic opening, hummingbird, flower and branch design and detached hummingbird
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Carla Martinez, Mata Ortiz and Casas Grandes, Polychrome melon jar with organic opening, hummingbird, flower and branch design and detached hummingbird
Carla Martinez
Mata Ortiz and Casas Grandes
$ 1700
Polychrome melon jar with organic opening, hummingbird, flower and branch design and detached hummingbird
5 1/2 in H by 4 1/4 in Dia
Condition: Excellentâ„‘s=4
Signature: Her hallmark
Date Created: 2019
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Carla Martinez

Mata Ortiz and
Casas Grandes
Carla Martinez
Geometric design on a miniature lidded jar

Married to Diego Valles, Carla Martinez works with a wide range of clays to make everything from miniature lidded pots to large and graceful traditional pieces. However, it's her miniatures that are most popular and have made her famous. In 2013 her miniatures won 1st and 2nd Place ribbons at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's Women Potters of Mata Ortiz show. Since then she won 1st Place ribbons at the Mata Ortiz Concurso for her miniatures in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Carla was teaching engineering courses in Nuevo Casas Grandes before moving to Mata Ortiz and learning to make pots. She likes to fill out the major part of the design elements on a pot, then paint on a spider web pattern that fills the gaps in the main design elements (this is part of what makes the Porvenir style different from the Quezada style in Mata Ortiz pots).

She works with Diego often these days and she says that has stretched her pottery and design horizons in new directions. The two travel the world together as Diego is internationally known and often asked to give pottery-making demonstrations and lead workshops.

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Mata Ortiz and Casas Grandes

Paquime macaw pens
The macaw pens at Paquimé

Casas Grandes is both a municipality and an archaeological district in northern Chihuahua State, Mexico. The archaeological district includes the pre-historic ruins of Paquimé, a city that began to build around 1130 AD and was abandoned about 1450 AD. Archaeologists are uncertain as to whether Paquimé was settled by migrants from the Mogollon/Mimbres settlements to the north or by Anasazi elite from the Four Corners region in the United States or by others. Over the years Paquimé was built into a massive complex with structures up to six and seven stories high with multiple Great Houses in the surrounding countryside. Today, the site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mata Ortiz is a small settlement inside the bounds of the Casas Grandes municipality very near the site of Paquimé. The fortunes of the town have gone up and down over the years with a real economic slump happening after the local railroad repair yard was relocated to Nuevo Casas Grandes in the early 1960's. The town was in steady decline until Juan Quezada, a poor farmer who gathered firewood in the area of the archaeological site, was inspired by fragments of ancient Paquimé pottery and even older fragments of Mimbres forms with bold black-on-white designs littering the ground to learn more.

Paquime polychrome effigy pot
Ramos Polychrome effigy pot from Paquimé

Quezada was successful in his quest to learn to recreate the ancient process using slightly more modern techniques (although no one in the present tradition uses a potter's wheel). He learned to use sand and other coarse materials for temper. He discovered that dried cow dung made an excellent and inexpensive firing fuel. Instead of using gourds for smoothing he substituted broken hacksaw blades. Instead of using yucca fiber brushes for painting he learned to make brushes with human hair. He persevered in his efforts and by 1971 had produced a kind of polychrome pottery. Since then, most pottery-making in the area has used innovations in the design and decoration of the pots but the materials and the basic crafting of the process have remained the same.

By the mid-1970's, Quezada had attracted a significant number of traders and his work was becoming a commercial success. That is when he began teaching his techniques to his immediate family. They in turn taught other family members, friends and the younger generations. Both women and men were included from the beginning.

Originally called Casas Grandes pottery in the early years of its production, the potters of this tiny village have made such an impact on the pottery communities, including many awards and special recognition from the Presidents of Mexico, that Mata Ortiz pottery is now becoming known around the world.

Today, pottery production has changed the village in many ways as there is now electricity, plumbing, vehicles and more for the residents. Virtually everyone in the small town (2010 population: 1,182) makes their living by working in some part of the pottery-making process, from potters to clay-gatherers to firewood collectors to traders.

Mata Ortiz pottery incorporates elements of contemporary and prehistoric design and decoration, and each potter or pottery family produces their own distinctive, individualized ware. Young potters from surrounding areas have been attracted to the Mata Ortiz revival and new potting families have developed while the art movement continues to expand. Without the restraints of traditional religious practices or gender constraints, a vibrant flow of new ideas has enabled the pottery of Mata Ortiz to avoid the derivative repetition common to virtually all folk art movements. This blend of economic need, gender equality, cultural expression and artistic freedom has produced a unique artistic movement in today's community.

Mata Ortiz location map

Upper photo is in the public domain
Lower photo is courtesy of David Monniaux, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

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