Mexican Pottery is the most prolific and versatile type of Mexican Folk Art. Its variety shows the cultural, historic and geographic diversity of this country.
The oldest pottery pieces found in Mesoamerica are 4500 years old; this is the time when the population became sedentary. The clay pieces found from that period are gourd shaped and were probably used to carry water.
Mesoamerican pottery was hand-coiled and low-fired, often slipped or burnished and sometimes painted with mineral pigments.
Every region developed its own pottery styles and techniques. Ceramic was used for domestic, ceremonial, funerary and construction purposes.
Mesoamerican civilizations' pottery production was such an integral part of their culture that many techniques survived the Spanish colonization.
Pottery During Colonial Times
Throughout the colony, the Spaniards introduced the potter's wheel, the enclosed kiln, lead glazes, pigments extracted from metal oxides and shapes such as the tile, the candle holder and the olive jar.
The New Spain was part of the commercial route between the Philippines and Spain. Spanish galleons sailed from Manila to Acapulco full of Asian goodies, including Chinese porcelain. From Acapulco the merchandise was carried by land to Veracruz, the main port in the Gulf of Mexico, and shipped to Spain.
Many of these goodies stayed in Mexico and significantly influenced the local artisans. Mayolica ceramic production, started in Puebla, is an example of this influence.
Contemporary Mexican Pottery
Contemporary Mexican Pottery reflects the cultural background of Mexican history.
The Spanish techniques, especially the glazing and firing; the Native shapes, colors and patterns; the Arabic influences brought in by the Spaniards and the colors and shapes from China, can be seen in many pottery styles throughout the country.
Handmade domestic wares have been replaced by mass produced cheaper ceramic. In order to survive, most Mexican pottery styles have shifted to decorative pieces.
The most popular and successful Mexican pottery styles today are:
Oaxacan Black Clay
The Black Clay (Barro Negro
) from San Bartolo Coyotepec in Oaxaca had been used by Zapotecs since pre-Hispanic times, but it was Rosa Real de Nieto, aka Doña Rosa, who discovered how to give the clay its now typical shiny black color.
Openwork black clay vase
Multicolored Clay from Izucar de Matamoros
The Multicolored Clay (Barro Policromado
) from Izucar de Matamoros, a small community with an extensive pottery tradition, is widely appreciated for its delicate drawings and bright colors; the town's pottery became internationally known thanks to Alfonso Castillo Orta's expertise and creativity. Among the most representative models in this style are the incense burners and the tree of life
Multicolored Tree of Life Candle Holder
Painted Clay from Guerrero
Nahuatl folk painting
can be fully appreciated in the Barro Pintado
colorful birds, flowers, landscapes and everyday town activities. Boxes, plates, and animal figurines portray the Mezcala's people stories and costumes.
Clay Figurines from Tlaquepaque
Painted clay fish depicting an everyday activities scene.
In the beginning of the 20th Century Pantaleon Panduro
revolutionized Tlaquepaque's pottery making with his incredible sculpting talent. This village near Guadalajara has a clay working heritage dating back to prehispanic times.
Pantaleon became internationally known for his clay busts and figurines and created a tradition that lasts till today. With their clay effigies and nativity scenes Panduro and his descendants enriched Tlaquepaque's pottery heritage.
Pantaleon Panduro at his workshop in 1883.
Pottery from Capula
Capula is a small village in Michoacan state with a pre-Hispanic pottery tradition. Clay tableware delicately decorated with flowers and fishes, kitchen plates painted with the town's unique dotting style and most recently clay Catrinas
award Capula Pottery international reputation.
Capula's tea set decorated with the traditional flower's pattern.
Mexican majolica pottery was first made in Puebla in the 16th Century spreading later to Guanajuato and Aguascalientes. Nowadays the most recognized Majolica workshops are "Gorky Gonzalez", "Capelo" and "Ceramica Santa Rosa".
Talavera from Puebla
Talavera de Puebla is a majolica style pottery made in Puebla with the same techniques used in Colonial times. Talavera
brand is reserved by law to this earthenware.
Two legitimate talavera workshops are "Talavera Uriarte" who keeps with the traditional designs and "Talavera de la Reyna" sought after for its contemporary styles.
Mata Ortiz Pottery
Talavera Uriarte Building
Mata Ortiz, a small town located near the remains of the ancient city Paquime, has become internationally recognized thanks to its ceramic production.
Artisans from the village, located in Chihuahua state, have successfully reproduced the delicate hand coiled and elegantly painted vases and bowls made by the unknown early inhabitants of Paquime.
Mata Ortiz Pottery vase made by Adrian Rojas
Clay figures from Metepec
In Metepec, a town in the Toluca Valley, pottery making is a tradition since pre-Colonial times. They specialized in, sun faces, and green tableware until 1940 when Modesta Fernández Mata began making the Tree of Life.
Today Metepec is internationally known for these sculptures and Modesta's descendants, the Soteno family, have been repeatedly awarded for their incredibly detailed creations.
Mexican Folk Arts tree of life by Oscar Soteno
Tonala's Burnished Clay
This clay style from Tonala includes necked jugs decorated with twisted animals, such as rabbits, birds and cats. Frequent color combinations include delicate tones of rose, gray-blue and white on a background of brown, light gray, green or blue.
The Barro Bruñido pieces are rubbed with a rock until their surface is so polished it looks as if they were glazed.
Burnished clay vase made by Jose Luis Cortez Hernandez
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