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.
Pottery was first made in Mesoamerica in the early pre-classic era, around 4500 years ago, when Mesoamericans became sedentary. The clay pieces found from that period are gourd shaped and were probably used to hold water.
Mesoamerican pottery was hand-coiled and low-fired, often slipped and/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, new pigments (extracted from metal oxides such as green, red, white) and new 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 crossed the Pacific Ocean full of Asian goodies, including Chinese porcelain, arrived to Acapulco and from there the merchandise was carried by land to Veracruz, the main port in the Gulf of Mexico. From Veracruz the packages were shipped to Spain. Many of these goodies stayed in the colony and influenced the local artisans.
Glazed ceramic such as Majolica was used by the Spaniards, while the rest of the people continued using the traditional pottery.
Modern Mexican Pottery
Modern Mexican Pottery reflects the cultural background of Mexican history. The Spanish techniques, especially the glazing and firing; the Indian shapes, colors and patterns; the Asiatic influences brought in by the Spanish through the Arabic influence in their culture and by the commerce with China, can be seen in many pottery styles throughout the country.
With the technological advances, handmade ceramic domestic wares have been replaced by mass produced and cheaper wares. Most of Mexican pottery styles have changed their domestic ware for ornamental pieces which has allowed them to survive.
Because of the great variety in pottery styles we have in the country, we decided to start with the most popular and then go on with others, just as beautiful, but not so well known.
The most representative and successful Mexican pottery styles today are:
Oaxacan Black Clay
The 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 characteristic shiny black color.
Openwork black clay vase
Multicolored Clay from Izucar de Matamoros
The Barro Policromado
from Izucar de Matamoros in Puebla is widely appreciated for its delicate drawings and bright colors. A small community with a long pottery tradition, the town's pottery became internationally known thanks to Alfonso Castillo Orta talent 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
The Barro Pintado
featuring colorful birds, flowers, landscapes and everyday's life scenes, painted clay is one of styles where Nahuatl folk painting can be appreciated. Boxes, plates, and animal figurines narrate the Mezcala's stories and costumes.
Painted Clay Fish Plate Depicting the Jaguar's Dance
Clay Figurines from Tlaquepaque
Tlaquepaque, a village nearby Guadalajara had a pre-Hispanic pottery tradition making handicrafts. In the beginning of the 20th Century Pantaleon Panduro
revolutionized the town's pottery making with his incredible sculpting talent.
He became internationally known for his clay busts and figurines and created a tradition that lasts till today. Thanks to Panduro and his family Tlaquepaque is known today for its clay dolls and nativity scenes.
Pantaleon Panduro sculpting a clay bust at his workshop
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
give this town its international fame.
Capula's clay tea set decorated with the traditional flower's pattern
Majolica was brought to Mexico by the Spaniards in the 16th Century. The first place in Mexico where Majolica was made is Puebla; later the techniques spread to Guanajuato and Aguascalientes. The most recognized Majolica workshops are the ones run by Gorky Gonzalez, Capelo and Ceramica Santa Rosa.
Talavera from Puebla
Talavera de Puebla
Majolica pieces made by Gorky Gonzalez
is a Majolica style pottery made with the special clay from the Puebla area and the same techniques used in the Colonial times. Only the Majolica form Puebla can be called Talavera.
Talavera Uriarte is the oldest workshop in the City and known for its traditional designs while Talavera de la Reyna, a fairly new workshop is sought after for its modern styles.
Mata Ortiz Pottery
Talavera Uriarte Building
Mata Ortiz is a small community in Chihuahua State, located near the remains of the ancient city Paquime. People from the town have successfully reproduced the pottery made by the inhabitants of Paquime.
The delicate hand coiled and hand painted vases and bowls have become internationally sought and are considered one of the finest Mexican pottery styles.
Mata Ortiz Pottery Vase Made by Adrian Rojas
Clay figures from Metepec
In Metepec, a county in the Toluca Valley in Estado de Mexico, pottery making is a tradition since pre-Colonial times. They specialized in clay toys, sunfaces, candle holders religious figures 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 multiply awarded for their incredibly detailed sculptures.
Mexican Folk Art's Tree of Life by Oscar Soteno
Tonala's Burnished Clay
Typical clay style from Tonala, Jalisco the Barro Bruñido
pieces are not glazed but rubbed with a stone until their surface is so smooth and shiny it looks as if they were glazed.
Many of these pieces are slender necked jugs or lamp bases, decorated with animals, such as rabbits, birds and cats, with distorted characteristics, giving them a surreal look. Frequent color combinations of Tonala's burnished clay include delicate tones of rose, gray-blue and white on a background of brown, light gray, green or blue.
Burnished clay vase made by Jose Luis Cortez Hernandez
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