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Alfredo Rodriguez, Mata Ortiz and Casas Grandes, Black and white jar with sgraffito Day of the Dead motif
Alfredo Rodriguez
Mata Ortiz and Casas Grandes
7 in H by 6 1/2 in Dia Measurement includes stand
xxcgf8122m5
$ 550
Black and white jar with sgraffito Day of the Dead motif
Condition: Excellent
Signature: Alfredo Rodriguez Freddy
Date Created: 2018
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Alfredo Rodriguez
"Freddy"

Mata Ortiz &
Casas Grandes
A sgraffito Day of the Dead design on a black and white jar
 

Alfredo Rodriguez is a potter from Mata Ortiz. He most likely learned to make pottery from his cousin, Luis Armando Rodriguez but his early work also showed a significant influence from another cousin: Manuel (Manolo) Rodriguez.

More recently, Freddy has been producing a lot of black and white sgraffito Day of the Dead and Night of the Dead designs on his pots, in addition to his contemporary black-on-beige painted designs. He is married to potter Diana Loya and they often collaborate on their projects. They live in the Barrio Americano neighborhood in Mata Ortiz.

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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, was inspired by fragments of ancient Paquimé pottery and even older fragments of Mimbres forms with bold black-on-white designs littering the ground to learn more.

Paquime polychrome effigy pot
Ramos Polychrome effigy pot from Paquimé

Quezada was successful in his quest to learn 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 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.

Originally called Casas Grandes pottery in the early years of its production, 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

Upper photo is in the public domain
Lower photo is courtesy of David Monniaux, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License

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Day of the Dead

Mata Ortiz

Hector Javier Martinez made this sgraffito Night of the Dead design

Hector Javier Martinez
Mata Ortiz
Sgraffito Night of the Dead motif on a red and white bowl

Hector Javier Martinez
Mata Ortiz
Sgraffito Night of the Dead design on a black and white jar

Hector Javier Martinez
Mata Ortiz

The Day of the Dead, El Dia de los Muertos, is a holiday celebrated in Mexico where ancient Aztec rituals going back more than 2,500 years are merged with Catholic beliefs brought by the Spaniards in the 1500's. The holiday is about honoring the ancestors with food, drink, parties and other activities designed to include the ancestors' spirits in today's daily life. Families also set up ofrendas, or private altars, to honor their ancestors.

Death is considered an integral part of the continuum of life and, as such, is not to be feared. Celebrations occur November 1 (All Saints Day) when adult spirits come to visit, and November 2 (All Souls Day) when families go to the cemetery to decorate the graves of their loved ones. This is a very colorful holiday with marigolds, cardboard skeletons, sugar skulls, incense and tissue paper decorations in riotous colors everywhere.

Depictions of Day of the Dead activities is a motif explored by several renowned potters from the village of Mata Ortiz in Chihuahua, Northern Mexico. Premier among them is Hector Javier Martinez who originated the style in 2008 after searching for "something different" to help him secure pottery making as a vocation. He has since won several major awards for his Day of the Dead (and Night of the Dead) pottery, the very prestigious Presidencial Award from the Mexico National Ceramics Concourso in Tlaquepaque among them. Alfredo Rodriguez, Diana Loya, Martin Corona, Adrian Corona and Emiliano Rodriguez are some of the other Mata Ortiz artists using Day of the Dead and Night of the Dead motifs as inspiration for their own creations.

Sgraffito Day of the Dead motif on a black and white jar

Alfredo Rodriguez
Mata Ortiz
Black and white jar etched in the sgraffito technique with a Night of the Dead motif

Adrian Corona
Mata Ortiz
Sgraffito Day of the Dead design on a black and white jar

Emiliano Rodriguez
Mata Ortiz
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Juan Quezada Family and Teaching Tree

Disclaimer: This "family and teaching tree" is a best effort on our part to determine who the potters are in this grouping and arrange them in a generational order/order of influence. Complicating this for Mata Ortiz is that everyone essentially teaches everyone else (including the neighbors), so it's hard to get a real lineage of family/teaching. The general information available is scant. This diagram is subject to change as we get better info.


    Juan Quezada (b. 1940)
    His siblings who learned from him and became potters:
    • Nicolas Quezada & Maria Gloria Orozco
      His children who became potters:
      • Dora Quezada
      • Elida Quezada & Ramon Lopez
      • Jose Quezada & Marisela Herrera
      • Leonel Quezada Talamontes
    • Reynaldo Quezada & Monserat Treviso
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Lucia Quezada
      • Maria de los Angeles Quezada
      • Maria Guadalupe Quezada
      • Mariano Quezada
      Others who learned from Reynaldo:
      • Fernando Andrew
      • Octavio Andrew
      • Jose Cota
      • Gloria Lopez
      • Rosa Lopez
        Her students:
        • Roberto & Angela Banuelos (both learned from Rosa and Gloria)
          Their descendants who became potters:
          • Adriana Banuelos
          • Diana Laura Banuelos
          • Mauricio Banuelos
    • Lydia Quezada & Rito Talavera
      Their children who became potters:
      • Moroni Quezada (b. 1993)
      • Pabla Quezada
    • Consolacion Quezada & Guadalupe Corona Sr.
      Others who learned from her:
      • Dora Quezada
      • Guadalupe Lupe Corona Jr.
        Others who learned from him:
        • Abelina Corona
        • Jorge Corona
        • Vidal Corona & Luz Elva Gutierrez
      • Hilario Quezada & Matilde Olivas
        Their descendants who became potters:
        • Hilario Quezada Jr.
      • Manual Corona Quezada
      • Mauro Corona Quezada & Martha Martinez
        Others who learned from Mauro:
        • Abelina Corona
        • Mauro Corona
        • Luis Baca & Carmen Fierro
      • Oscar Corona Quezada
        Others who learned from him:
        • Octavio Gonzales Camacho (Quezada)
        • Oscar Gonzales Quezada
      Others who learned from them:
      • Angel Amaya (student of Mauro and Consolacion)
    • Reynalda Quezada & Simon Lopez
      Others who learned from them:
      • Samuel Lopez Quezada & Estella S. de Lopez
      • Olivia Lopez Quezada & Hector Ortega
      • Yolanda Lopez Quezada
    • Rosa Quezada
      Others who learned from her:
      • Noelia Hernandez Quezada (b. 1975)
      • Paty Quezada
    • Jesus Quezada
      Others who learned from him:
      • Imelda Quezada
      • Jaime Quezada
      • Jose Luis Quezada Camacho
      • Mary Quezada
    • Genoveva Quezada & Damian Escarcega
      Others who learned from her:
      • Damian Quezada & Elvira Antillon
        Others who learned from them:
        • Anjelica Escarcega
        • Ana Trillo
          Her descendants who became potters:
          • Adrian Corona
        • Damian Escarcega
        • Yesenia Escarcega
      • Ivona Quezada
      • Miguel Quezada

    Juan's children who became potters:

    • Albaro Quezada Olivas
    • Arturo Quezada Olivas
    • Efren Quezada Olivas
    • Juan Quezada Olivas Jr. & Lourdes Luli Quintana de Quezada
    • Laura Quezada
    • Maria Elena Nena Quezada de Lujan
      Others who learned from her:
      • Alondra Lujan Quezada
    • Mireya Quezada
    • Noe Quezada & Elizabeth Quintana
      Their descendants who became potters:
      • Guillermina Quezada
      • Ivan Quezada
      • Lupita Quezada

    Others who learned from Juan:

    • Taurina Baca
    • Gerardo Cota
      Others who learned from him:
      • Martin Cota
    • Guadalupe Lupita Cota
      Her descendants who became potters:
      • Elvira Bugarini Cota & Jesus Pedregon
      • Laura Bugarini Cota
      • Lucy Lopez Cota
    • Guadalupe Gallegos
    • Manuel Manolo Rodriguez Guillen
      Others who learned from Manolo:
      • Ricardo Delgado Cruz
      • Martha Gonzalez
      • Jose Antonio Rodriguez Gonzalez
      • Ishmael Flores Ledezma
        Others who learned from Ishmael:
        • Ishmael Flores Jr.
      • Arturo Ledezma
        His siblings who became potters:
        • Efren Ledezma
        • Gerardo Ledezma
        • Juana Ledezma
        • Rafael Ledezma
        • Santos Ledezma & Rosa Loya
          Their descendants who became potters:
          • Jorge Alejandro Ledezma
      • Leonel Lopez Sr. and Elena Rodriguez de Lopez
        Others who learned from them:
        • Abel Lopez
        • Leonel Lopez Jr.
        • Norma Lopez
      • Uriel Lopez
      • Hugo Macias
      • Alfredo Freddy Rodriguez and Diana Loya
        Others who learned from them:
        • Emiliano Rodriguez Loya
      • Armando Rodriguez & Olivia Mora de Rodriguez
      • Oscar Rodriguez Guillen
      • Ruben Rodriguez & Martha Ponce de Rodriguez
      • Teresa Tere Rodriguez
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