Tati Elino Ortiz López, Casas Grandes, Chihuahua
Like all potters in the Mata Ortiz tradition, the artist uses no potter’s wheel, kiln, glazes, nor any chemical materials. All pottery is hand-formed from locally dug clay. It is hand-painted with natural mineral or plant colors and most are fired over open ground without the use of a kiln. The shaping, polishing and painting is entirely done by hand, often with brushes made from children’s hair.
Spencer McCallum who is well-known for his discovering the now famous Juan Quezada and bringing this art form to the public’s attention, has assisted the Feria with names of Mata Ortiz artisans for many years.
Tati Eleo Ortiz López is one such artist. He began learning the process of making one of the thinnest pots in the world from his parents and later apprenticed under a maestro (teacher). His unique style had garnered him prizes in judged art shows over the years.
First, Tati gathers the clay he uses for his pots from the mountains. After one day of soaking in water, the clay is dissolved enough to pass it through several screens to get a fine liquid. As it dries, it is formed into balls ready to be made into pots.
He begins with a saucer and the ball of clay. As he pinches the clay to form the sides he makes sure the thin walls are equal in size, rotating the pot again and again and pulling the clay up and into the pot’s final shape. He uses regular wood sandpaper to smooth the sides, again taking into consideration the width of the very thin walls.
For the polishing, he uses oil used on horses’ saddles, and then polishes with water and an agate stone to obtain the shiny finish needed for painting. Natural paints and pigments used to make the geometric designs must hold up to and, are becoming lost, during the 1000° firing. He uses a hand-made brush of 15 human hairs and/or another with 20-25 hairs to design the piece. The final polishing is using a brand of soap called Jabonsote to ensure the paint adheres to the clay preserving it for many years to come.
Before firing, he dries the piece well by sitting it under a regular light bulb — 30 kwh or 60 kwg — again ensuring the heat on the pot is consistent during this process. He proceeds to either oxygen or oxygen reduction firing using wood, cow dung or husks. After firing, the piece is cooled and Tati can judge whether it is good enough to sell.
C. Pearson #10, Loc Juan Mata Ortiz
Casas Grandes, Chihuahua
636 661 7005