Pottery by Yoly Ledezma, Click or tap to see a larger version
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Yoly Ledezma, Mata Ortiz and Casas Grandes, Polychrome jar with square rim and quadrillos geometric design
Artist: Yoly Ledezma
Pueblo: Mata Ortiz and Casas Grandes
Dimensions: 5 in H by 8 1/4 in Dia
Item Number: xxcgj6302
Price: $ SOLD
Description: Polychrome jar with square rim and quadrillos geometric design
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Yoly Ledezma
Date Created: 2016
Sale Price: $SOLD
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Yoly Ledezma

Mata Ortiz and
Casas Grandes
Yoly Ledezma
Red and black checkerboard design on a polychrome jar with a square-lipped opening
 

Contrary to others in her illustrious family who work almost exclusively with white-bodied vessels, Yolanda "Yoly" Ledezma de Ortega generally works with red clays and makes wide-shouldered small jars with unusual flared rims. Then she paints them in quadrillos, a red and black checkerboard style, sometimes adding white dots, contrasting colored ants and/or miscellaneous geometrics to the mix.

There are two primary styles of design in Mata Ortiz: the Porvenir, named for the barrio in which it originated, and the Quezada, named for the man who originated it. The Quezada style begins with a loose flowing design that encompasses a large part of the surface of a piece and uses the white space as part of the overall design. The Porvenir style emphasizes covering nearly the entire surface of the piece with some element of design, whether carved, etched or painted, while leaving the top and bottom of the piece in the original color of the fired clay. Yoly adheres closely to the Porvenir style with single colored top and bottom and the rest of the surface completely filled with design.

Yoly's children, Santiago Ortega and Celia Ortega Ledezma, both learned to make award-winning pots from her while they were growing up.


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Mata Ortiz and Casas Grandes

Paquime macaw pens
The macaw pens at Paquimé

Casas Grandes is both a municipality and an archaeological district in northern Chihuahua State, Mexico. The archaeological district includes the pre-historic ruins of Paquimé, a city that began to build around 1130 AD and was abandoned about 1450 AD. Archaeologists are uncertain as to whether Paquimé was settled by migrants from the Mogollon/Mimbres settlements to the north or by Anasazi elite from the Four Corners region in the United States or by others. Over the years Paquimé was built into a massive complex with structures up to six and seven stories high with multiple Great Houses in the surrounding countryside. Today, the site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Mata Ortiz is a small settlement inside the bounds of the Casas Grandes municipality very near the site of Paquimé. The fortunes of the town have gone up and down over the years with a real economic slump happening after the local railroad repair yard was relocated to Nuevo Casas Grandes in the early 1960's. The town was in steady decline until Juan Quezada, a poor farmer who gathered firewood in the area of the archaeological site, found fragments of ancient Paquimé pottery and even older fragments of Mimbres forms with bold black-on-white designs littering the ground. Those pot shards inspired him to recreate how that pottery had first been made.

Paquime polychrome effigy pot
Ramos Polychrome effigy from Paquimé

Quezada was successful in his quest to recreate the ancient process using slightly more modern techniques (although no one in the present tradition uses a potter's wheel). He learned to use sand and other coarse materials for temper. He discovered that dried cow dung made an excellent and inexpensive firing fuel. Instead of using gourds for smoothing he substituted broken hacksaw blades. Instead of using yucca fiber brushes for painting he learned to make brushes with human baby hair. He persevered in his efforts and by 1971 had produced a kind of polychrome pottery. Since then, most pottery-making in the area has used innovations in the design and decoration of the pots but the materials and the basic crafting of the process have remained the same.

By the mid-1970's, Quezada had attracted a significant number of traders and his work was becoming a commercial success. That is when he began teaching his techniques to his immediate family. They in turn taught other family members, friends and the younger generations. Both women and men were included from the beginning.

Contemporary Mata Ortiz pottery was mistakenly called Casas Grandes prehistoric pottery in the early years of its production. But the potters of this tiny village have made such an impact on the pottery communities, including many awards and special recognition from the Presidents of Mexico, that Mata Ortiz pottery is now becoming known around the world.

Today, pottery production has changed the village in many ways as there is now electricity, plumbing, vehicles and more for the residents. Virtually everyone in the small town (2010 population: 1,182) makes their living by working in some part of the pottery-making process, from potters to clay-gatherers to firewood collectors to traders.

Mata Ortiz pottery incorporates elements of contemporary and prehistoric design and decoration, and each potter or pottery family produces their own distinctive, individualized ware. Young potters from surrounding areas have been attracted to the Mata Ortiz revival and new potting families have developed while the art movement continues to expand. Without the restraints of traditional religious practices or gender constraints, a vibrant flow of new ideas has enabled the pottery of Mata Ortiz to avoid the derivative repetition common to virtually all folk art movements. This blend of economic need, gender equality, cultural expression and artistic freedom has produced a unique artistic movement in today's community.

Mata Ortiz location map


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Pottery Care & Consideration

  • The most obvious tip: Yes, the pots will break if you drop them!
  • Do not expose pottery to water (Inside or outside). Do not wipe with a damp cloth.
  • Dust pottery only with a soft, smooth cloth (no terry cloth or textured fabric). A very soft paintbrush (sable or camel) can be used.
  • Always use two hands to carry your pot: one on top and one on the bottom, or one hand on each side. Be careful with handles, they can be fragile. Do not grip or lift pots by the rim. Take care when wearing jewelry, rings can scratch the finish.
  • Place a piece of felt or cloth between the pot and the shelf to protect the signature.
  • Avoid exposing pottery to extreme temperature changes.

For those who live in "earthquake country" (also good for mischievous pets):

  • Weigh pots down with a small zip lock bag containing sand, glass marbles, rice, etc. Do not fill the pot more than one third full as you want them bottom heavy. Remember to remove the weight before moving.
  • Secure your shelves; make sure they are well attached to the walls. Shelf brackets should be of sufficient length and strength to support the weight of your pottery.
  • Prevent pots from sliding. Consider attaching a small wooden molding to the front of shelves. Line shelves with non-slip material (a thin sheet of rubber foam, Styrofoam sheeting, etc.)
  • If you need assistance with special problems, major cleaning (your grandchild spills ice cream on your pot), restoration or repair (the cat breaks a pot), or replacement (irreparable damage), please feel free to call us.

We hope these ideas help you maintain the beauty and value of your pottery for years of enjoyment.

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