Your weekend: The potters of Mata Ortiz
About 50 years ago, Juan Quezada was a poor boy searching for firewood when he found, in the caves of his small Mexican desert town in the northern part of Chihuahua state, shards of pottery painted by his ancestors, the Paquime Indians. For years he struggled to recreate the pottery; once successful, he sold it to passing visitors. And then, according to the folks at UC Berkeley’s Hearst Museum:
In 1976, anthropologist Spencer Heath MacCallum stepped inside Bob’s Swap Shop in New Mexico. Amidst the knick-knacks and debris he stumbled upon three beautifully crafted ceramic pots, which appeared to be prehistoric. The shopkeeper informed him that they were contemporary pieces; a poor family had exchanged the pots for used clothing. Spencer was determined to find out who made these fine ceramics. After a long journey, he was finally directed to the small town of Mata Ortiz. There, he found the artist he had been searching for: Juan Quezada. Finely crafted Mata Ortiz pottery would now be recognized, collected, and appreciated by an international audience.
You see, while Quezada was on it, he trained many of his fellow-villagers to create the same pots that had made him famous, saving his town. And a group of them – Pilo Mora, Guadalupe Mora, Sabino Villalba and Anna Trillo – will be here in Alameda this weekend, demonstrating their craft.
The festivities kick off Friday night with a reception at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts, 1601 Paru Street. The reception, which will be held from 7 to 9 p.m., is sponsored by the Mexican Consulate (and it sounds like the Consul General and his cultural arts staff will be there). The event is free.
Then on Saturday and Sunday, the visiting potters will give free demonstrations showing how they craft their pots (by hand, without a wheel). Demonstrations are scheduled on Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. at Gallagher & Lindsey’s offices at 2424 Central Avenue and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bridgeside Shopping Center as part of the Gratitude Art Faire, and on Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Alameda Free Library (main branch) and from 2 to 4 p.m. at Cardinal Point, 2431 Mariner Square Drive.