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 Culture & Traditions

The History of Mexican Pottery


“A peoples’ creativity, its sensitivity and its
finesse can all be appreciated
through its pottery.”

 Herbert Read
Art Historian

Drawing_prehisp_cut

Since the emergence of the  Olmec  culture, considered to be the mother of the Mesoamerican cultures, ceramics, pottery making, took an important place in the lives of the Mexican people.

The earthenware vessels, anthropomorphic figures, and various types of tools found in the archaeological ruins of the ancient  Olmec  cities of  TajinSan LorenzoLa Venta  and  Tres Zapotes , suggest the techniques used in their ceramics: the use of clay, the knowledge of  primitive firing techniques, their means of coloring and painting designs.

 

Did you know …  Did you know That Mexico has a tradition of more than 3,000 years of pottery making?

The  Olmecs  transcended their era (1500 BC -800 AD) and handed down their knowledge to the cultures that flourished after them.

Teotihuacan Effigy Vase

The  Teotihuacans  (100 BC – 800 AD) prepared the majority of their vessels with clay and decorated them with a variety of techniques: mainly stucco, painting, and smoothing.

The pottery of the  Aztecs  (1325 AD – 1521 AD) was extremely varied. They made all types of earthenware, plates, jugs, cups, pots, mostly with red and orange clay.

The  Mixtecs  stood out for their polychrome lacquer ceramics, in which after polishing a piece, they would cover it with white stucco and then paint it.

To the north, the  Casas Grandes culture (100 A.D. – 1360 A.D.) produced  beautiful polychrome ceramic, basically with geometric motives and influences from the Mimbres culture.

Each region had its own unique characteristics in pottery.  However, in all these cultures, the potter himself was given a great deal of importance.  The Aztecs summed it up in the following way:

“A good potter:
he puts great care into his work,
he teaches the clay to lie,
he speaks with his own heart,
he brings life to things,
he creates them,
he knows everything as if he were a Toltec
he makes his hands skillful.”

Ollas_sabino

 

The ancient techniques employed to make ceramics are still used today – mostly in the rural parts of Mexico. It’s curious how these groups were able to preserve their artistic techniques – coil building, open firing, natural pigments – and yet they lost their original language and their religion.

 


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