Are you looking to add a touch of rustic flare to your home? Mexican clay pottery is a wonderfully earthy and surprisingly affordable way to instantly create a warm and welcoming room. Read our guide for more facts & information…
Pottery has a strong, cultural tradition in Mexico that goes back centuries, and was refined in the times of Spanish conquest. The methods employed hundreds of years ago have been handed down from generation to generation and are still used today. Historically, each village had its own exclusive pottery made by highly skilled artisans, and this tradition has seen a revival in the second half of the 20th century. The clays used in the pottery are typically unique to that region, with its own characteristics and colors that make the pottery distinct.
Popular and Famous Clay Pottery
There are many unique designs and looks that are specific to various regions, however, there are some that have surpassed others in both popularity and renown. Here is a quick overview of some of the best sellers.
Talavera – by far the most talked-about Mexican pottery around, it features a cream-colored glaze and colorful hand painted details in beautifully bold patterns, flower motifs and friezes.
Tonalá and Tlaquepaque – pottery from this region is also beautifully colorful, with a glossy glaze. There is more emphasis on surreal still-life depictions, rather than radial patterns.
Barro Negro – has a black clay base, which is polished after firing, leaving a wonderfully smooth black sheen. It often features intricate geometric etchings and carvings.
Casas Grandes – also known as Paquimé, a much more subdued, burnished finish in natural earthy tones, with simple embellishments, or muted hand-painted artwork featuring birds and flowers. Unless it is a replica, these are generally archaeological findings of ancient antique pottery from the Casas Grandes area.
Mata Ortiz – close to the Casas Grandes area, the pottery from this village has a beautiful polished surface on lighter colored clays, with a wonderful array of contemporary designs and artworks featured on the pottery.
What To Look For
The Mexican government is notoriously protective of its proud pottery heritage, and takes great pains to conserve its traditional legacy. Genuine articles will have the potter’s name or initials, and the potter’s origin scribed into the pottery base where it is usually left unglazed or unpolished. Often, popular pieces, such as Talavera, will also carry a unique identification number, after having gone through several government endorsed checks and verifications. The hand-made quality of the pottery itself means that the paintwork is often slightly raised or textured, showcasing its use of thick, natural pigments. Glazes tend to be slightly crackly, unlike modern glazes, which tend to be completely smooth. There are plenty of replica pieces that use the Mexican look to inspire their design, and these are often cheaper and more readily available.
Burnished clay pottery that has not been glazed is very porous, and is often used for outdoor settings or as ornaments not meant for everyday use. Glazed pieces are also fairly fragile compared to modern tableware, and are not suitable for dishwashers, ovens or microwaves. Gentle hand washing is recommended. Some glazes also do not hold water well, despite “sealing” the clay. The crackled effect of the glaze means that it is still a little porous, and excessive water may damage the pottery. For pieces such as vases, where water will be used, it is recommended that a waterproof insert is used, or that the interior is coated with additional sealant.