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Mexican Ceramics : Introduction

Mexican Ceramics : Mata Ortiz, Casas Grandes, Talavera, Oaxacan Pottery

Mexico has a very rich and ancient tradition in ceramic ware. Several shards of pottery have been unearthed from the hard soils of Mexico by archeologists, and some of these pieces of pottery even date several thousands of years ago. These archeological findings have helped provide a glimpse of the ceramic art that existed in Mexico several millennia ago; and what is more intriguing is that the ceramic art works of today bear the same identity that the early Mexicans have developed.

Types of Mexican Ceramics

Mexico has an extremely rich and varied culture in ceramics art. Though they are commonly termed as Mexican ceramics, in actuality, there are several types. The following are descriptions of some of the major types of Mexican ceramics:

I. Mata Ortiz Ceramic Pottery

Mata Ortiz ceramics are mostly pottery designs that are considered to be the finest ceramic artworks of the world. Mata Ortiz pottery was developed by Juan Quezada, who perfected the traditional art of designing these pots.

These ceramics contain earthen and porcelain pots hand painted with typical lines and curves designs, of the Mimbreno style, on varied backgrounds. The pots are made by coiling the clay, using absolutely traditional methods. The coiling is done by hand even today and the potter's wheel is not used. Pots are polished and painted with luminous finishes. Even the firing of the pots is done in a most traditional way.

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Images courtesy of Lakeview Museum

II. Casas Grandes Pottery

Casas Grandes pottery evolved in Paquimé in North Mexico about a millennium ago. These Mexican ceramics styles were mostly crude and focused more on their utility than their external beauty. However, the designs on Casas Grandes ceramics have retained their flavor even today, and that is why they are considered as priceless. Some of the best antiques in pottery and other forms of ceramics belong to the Casas Grandes school or ceramics artwork.

Today, the designs on the Casas Grandes ceramic style have undergone drastic changes, and lots of Spanish, Italian and even Arabic influences have seeped in. The designs are mostly patterns of birds and leaves, but other styles are also often seen.

III. Talavera Ceramics

The Talavera ceramics, also known as Majolica ceramics, are perhaps the most celebrated of the Mexican ceramics art forms. The evolution of this form can be traced back to Spain, with strong Arabic influences in it. Today, the town of Puebla is the largest retainer of this art, but several Talavera ceramics are also found in places such as Dolores Hidalgo, San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato.

The specialty in the formation of Talavera ceramics, especially the Talavera Poblano is that they are made with two firings. The first firing is done with tin glaze and the other is done with lead. The clay used for this craft is always a mixture of two clays, which is then molded together on the potter's wheel.

IV. Oaxacan Ceramics

Oaxaca is city and a region with a distinctive Mexican ceramics tradition of its own. This region has black clay, which is known as the 'barro negro'. All ceramics made in this Oaxaca is usually black, embelished with original hand painted designs.

Traditionally Mexican pottery was hand-built. It was generally low-fired earthenware and fired without glazes, which together with the potter's wheel were introduced by the Spaniards. Today there are several types of Mexican ceramics that are attracting the attention of the world. Mexico is one of the few cultures of the western world that have retained their rich ceramic craft.

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