Miguel Quezada, Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua

Miguel Quezada, Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua

The story of Mata Ortiz began in the rough cattle country of northern Chihuahua, hardly the place to find an artistic folkart movement. Yet a few dozen miles south of the rugged San Luis Mountains, the residents of Mata Ortiz produce a thin-walled, finely painted ceramic ware rivaling any handmade pottery in the world.

Juan Quezada grew up in the surrounding mountains and as a boy found pottery sherds from outlying areas around the ruins of a great city called Paquimé. He wondered about the ancient indigenous people and how they made such objects. When he had time at home, he dug clay in the arroyos, soaked it, and tried to make pots. They all cracked. Gradually, step by step, he mastered the process. Without any instruction, he had recreated the entire ceramic technology from clay preparation to firing, using only shards to guide him.

In 1974 Quezada decided to try and survive making his pottery. The sale of just one pot equaled one day’s wages and sometimes more. Within a decade, Juan Quezada was selling his pottery in the US but it wasn’t until he met an American trained in anthropology and art history, Spencer MacCallum, that Juan’s fame began to spread throughout the galleries of New Mexico and Arizona. This story continues in a fascinating tale that has changed the lives of every resident of Mata Ortiz.

Miguel Quezada, nephew of Juan (son of his sister, Genoveva), was born November 25, 1984 to Damian Escarcega, a railroad worker, and Genoveva Quezada, a sister of Juan Quezada, in Las Varas Babícora, a village of some 2,000 persons in the mountains of northwest Chihuahua, near Madera. The family moved in 1998 to Casas Grandes, near Mata Ortiz, for better schooling for Miguel.

Miguel learned his craft from his late uncle, Nicolás Quezada, brother of Juan Quezada in order to pay for his education, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in tourism at the Nuevo Casas Grandes campus of the University of Juarez (Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de Juárez — UACJ). He had further classes in painting from his aunt, Lydia Quezada and cousin, Damian Quezada.

He has exhibited at the Museo de las Culturas del Norte (Museum of Northern Cultures) in Casas Grandes, and in the US at the University of Colorado Springs. Miguel enjoys experimenting with colors of local clays and preparing slip colorants from minerals he gathers from the region, and he is currently experimenting with cut-outs in his pottery.

Like all potters in the Mata Ortiz tradition, he uses no potter's wheel or glazes, nor does he use any commercial materials in his work. When not making pottery, he operates a crane in large construction projects - currently bridge building in the Sierras for the new system of roads to the coast and Copper Canyon.

Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua

636-692-4482 casa, 636 110 3036 cell