Category Archives: Felix Ortiz

Mata Ortiz, Anglo Influence and Omissions

According to research by Mata Ortiz expert Jim Hills of Tucson, Arizona, indeed several people in the Porvenir neighborhood were making pottery in the 1970s. Porvenir potters Rojelio Silveira, Emeterio Ortiz, Félix Ortiz and Salbador Ortiz all made Mata Ortiz pottery in the early 1970s. In his paper, “Reconstructing a Miracle” in the University of Arizona’s Journal of the Southwest, Hills states, “Spencer MacCallum continually customized his story over the years in an attempt to promote a single narrative, which required omitting, modifying or diluting facts.” The Ortiz and Silveira potters were among those omissions.  Thus, according to Hills, “a blend of well-meaning entrepreneurial strategies, reticence, forgetfulness, imagination, exaggeration and romantic notions of reality have shaped the Mata Ortiz narrative.”

Essentially, two U.S. writers shaped an incomplete history of the Mata Ortiz pottery tradition. In 1993 American Walter Parks wrote a book based on MacCallum’s notes. In the book’s acknowledgements, Parks states,

“Spencer MacCallum was especially generous, opening all of his files to me and reviewing the text.”

Based on new voices and evidence, that history is deficient. It tells only part of the story. Many significant families were excluded from their writings.

THE PIONEERS, MANUEL OLIVAS

DVD COVER“Efforts Made to Rescue the Ceramics of Paquime” by

Julián Alejandro Hernández Chávez

 

“In 1952, in Casas Grandes, Manuel Olivas began to produce low temperature ceramics decorated with the designs from the pieces found at the archaeological sites. His grandmother taught him how to find the clay deposits, how to prepare the clay and fire his pieces the way his family did to produce clay articles. This is how the new traditional Paquimé ceramics were born; after this, the ceramics appeared spontaneously in several communities in the region and the new potters exchanged the information they had. They sold their pieces as utilitarian and decorative objects, first to locals and later to tourists. There was a flurry of activity at the beginning of the seventies [1970s] which was centered on the town of Juan Mata Ortiz where Juan Quezada, Félix Ortiz, Rogelio Silviera and others worked full time as potters.”

Julián Alejandro Hernández of Nuevo Casas Grandes is a preeminent pottery expert focusing on the Casas Grandes and Mata Ortiz pottery traditions. Mr. Hernández has written two books about the art and archaeological ruins of Paquime in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua, Mexico. He is a working potter, having taught dozens of people about pottery. Hernandez started the first pottery school in Nuevo Casas Grandes. In addition, he is the director of the Francisco Villa Preparatory School.

 

 

Congratulations 100,000 Books

JUAN BOOK 2JUAN BOOK

ENGLISH/ESPANOL

Congratulations to Nancy Andrews-Goebel whose multi-award winning children’s book, The Pot that Juan Built, recently hit 100,000 number of books sold! Now in its 25th edition, the book won 23 awards.

Nancy’s upcoming children’s book, about Mata Ortiz potter Félix Ortiz, is illustrated by well-known artist Javier Martínez.

Felicidades a Nancy Andrews-Goebel cuyo libro para niños, “La Vasija Que Juan Fabricó,” ha ganado varios premios, ha alcanzado recientemente 100,000 libros vendidos! Ahora en su 25 edición, el libro ganó 23 premios.

El próximo libro infantil de Nancy, sobre el alfarero de Mata Ortiz, Félix Ortiz, está ilustrado por el reconocido artista Javier Martínez.

 

 

 

Mata Ortiz: Las Historias No Contadas, Parte Dos

LAS HISTORIAS NO CONTADAS DE PAQUIMÉ Y

MATA ORTIZ (PARTE DOS)

                                             Por Ron Goebel y Nancy Andrews

 

“Es momento de incluir más voces y expandir la historia de la tradición alfarería de Mata Ortiz en una representación más completa”.

-Del documental de 2015 “Mata Ortiz: Las Historias No Contadas”

La alfarería en Mata Ortiz surgió como un esfuerzo grupal. La documentación muestra que en Mata Ortiz la tradición alfarería comenzó como un esfuerzo grupal y no con la inspiración de un solo hombre. El profesor Julián Hernández está de acuerdo: “Comenzaron a trabajar con el barro… todos juntos… para lograr mejores habilidades y realizar sus trabajos de alfarería”.

Marisela Ortiz reafirma este esfuerzo grupal cuando habla sobre la década de 1960 y de principios de la década de 1970, los primeros años de su padre en la alfarería. “Sí, mi padre Félix Ortiz fue uno de los primeros que comenzó a trabajar con barro, él y algunos de sus amigos”, destaca. Junto con su hermano, Emeterio, entre los amigos alfareros de Félix se encontraban Rojelio Silveira y Salbador Ortiz, tío del artista contemporáneo Eli Navarrete.

Eli Navarrete recuerda sus propios comienzos, cuando aprendió a fabricar ollas en Barrio Porvenir. “Me juntaba con Félix y su hermano mayor Emeterio. Fueron pioneros con Juan Quezada. Y uno de los primeros en utilizar técnicas nuevas fue mi tío, Salbador Ortiz. Los fines de semana, pasaba tiempo con familiares y amigos y hablábamos sobre encontrar nuevos materiales y herramientas”.

El alfarero pionero de Mata Ortiz, Rojelio Silveira, coincide y afirma que en la década de1960 Salbador Ortiz era uno de los alfareros auténticos del pueblo. En una entrevista de 2012 con el documentalista Richard Ryan de Mata Ortiz, Silveira relata: “Tenía unos 21 años cuando comencé a fabricar ollas. Fue antes de casarme”. Era el año 1965. “Ahí fue cuando hice una olla con dos rostros, una esfinge. Félix [Ortiz] hizo un cuenco pequeño y mi amigo Chava [Salbador Ortiz] hizo una olla pequeña. Así fue cómo empezamos. Comenzó cuando les dije: “Hagamos una olla”. Silveira había sido un saqueador, y también resultó que pudo fabricar una olla él mismo. “Así que dijeron, está bien, intentémoslo, y así lo hicimos. Todos juntos. Félix Ortiz, yo Rojelio Silveira y Salbador Ortiz. Los tres”.

Que Milagro? (What a Miracle?)

Que Milagro?  (What a Miracle?)

Today, July 27, 2016, at the Clay Festival in Silver City, New Mexico, visiting Mata Ortiz artist, Diego Valles, staged a reform of sorts: He credited the MATRIARCHS of Mata Ortiz with being the first potters in their community. At last!

For years, the role pot-making grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and great-great-grandmothers played in the Mata Ortiz region was overlooked, sustaining an American-invented tale that pottery making was re-discovered in Mata Ortiz by a man who had never seen a potter at work. Yes, it was an American-invented myth. A myth of male dominance. A myth spread largely by American men with their own business interests and reputations at stake.

“Our grandmothers made utilitarian pottery out of necessity,” Valles asserted. “Pottery was part of the community.” He went on to say that “Later, in the fifties and sixties, it was a group of potters, the Silveiras and others,” that began what we now call the Mata Ortiz Pottery Movement. Collective sigh. It has finally been said out loud that generations of Mexican men and women are to be credited for Mata Ortiz Pottery.

And, Valles went on to speak about the long-held secret of mid-twentieth century pot hunting around Casas Grandes.  “It’s not shameful,” said Valles. “What would YOU do?” he asked, explaining that people were hungry, black market demand was great for ancient pots, the laws about antiquities were looser and many people did not yet understand the cultural significance of ancient artifacts. Years later, Mexican and American researchers were told to keep quiet about early pot hunting in their papers and presentations.

It’s about a hundred years after female potters were working in Mata Ortiz. It’s sixty-five years after Manuel Olivas learned potting in Casas Grandes from his grandmother, Leonor Parra. It’s sixty years after pot hunters like the pioneer Rojelio Silveira unearthed ancient pots in order to feed their families. It’s over fifty years since Silveira, Félix and Emeterio Ortiz, Juan and Nicolás Quezada and Salbador Ortiz began making pots. Now we can breathe a collective sigh as the silence is broken by a contemporary artist who dares to tell us the truth. Mata Ortiz Pottery is not simply a mythic male miracle. It is the result of a diversity of human brilliance, hard work and collaboration. Que milagro!

 

Mata Ortiz: Untold Stories Part Two

THE UNTOLD STORIES OF PAQUIMÉ AND

MATA ORTIZ (PART TWO)

By Ron Goebel and Nancy Andrews

 

“It is time to include more voices and expand the history of the

Mata Ortiz pottery tradition into a more complete account.”

-From the 2015 documentary, “Mata Ortiz: The Untold Stories”

 

Pottery in Mata Ortiz emerged as a group effort. Documentation by researcher Fabiola Silva shows that in Mata Ortiz the pottery tradition began as a group effort and not as a single man’s inspiration. Professor Julián Hernandez concurs: “They started working with the clay…all together…to get better skills to do their pottery.”

Speaking of the 1960s and early 1970s, her father’s early years in pottery, Maricela Ortiz reaffirms this group effort. “Yes, my father Félix Ortiz was one of the first ones who began working in clay, he and some of his friends,” she says. Along with his brother, Emeterio, Félix’s potter friends included Rojelio Silveira, and Salbador Ortiz, uncle of contemporary artist Elí Navarrete.

Eli Navarrete remembers his own early years of learning to make pots in Barrio Porvenir. “I hung out with Félix and his older brother Emeterio. They were pioneers with Juan Quezada. And one of the first ones to use new techniques was my uncle, Salbador Ortiz. On the weekends I spent time with family and friends and we would talk about finding new materials and tools.”

Pioneer Mata Ortiz potter Rojelio Silveira concurs, stating that in the 1960s Salbador Ortiz was one of the original potters in the village. In a 2012 interview with Mata Ortiz documentarian Richard Ryan, Silveira says, “I was about 21 years old when I began making pots. It was before I married.” The year was 1965. “That’s when I made a pot with two faces, an effigy. Félix [Ortiz] made a small bowl and my friend Chava [Salbador Ortiz] made a small pot. That’s the way we started. It started when I said to them, ‘Let’s make a pot.’” Silveira had been a pothunter, and so it occurred to him to make a pot himself. “So they said, OK, let’s give it a try, and we did. All together. Felix Ortiz, myself Rojelio Silveira, and Salbador Ortiz. The three of us.”

 

OUR NEIGHBORS IN MATA ORTIZ: VIEWED THROUGH A STERLING LENS

OUR NEIGHBORS IN MATA ORTIZ: VIEWED THROUGH A STERLING LENS

 

By Nancy Andrews, Silver City, New Mexico

Copyright Nancy Andrews 2014

(In early 2014 Donald Sterling was the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association or NBA. He was banned for life after he made racist remarks. His paternalistic remarks were equally disturbing and are the topic of this discussion.)

 

When Donald Sterling asked, “Who makes the game?” he gave voice to his flawed perception that a pale, maturing owner was the essence of a professional basketball team, a team rich with young Black talent. “Do they make the game?” Sterling queried. And a league of strong voices countered together, Yes! We make the game! We make basketball! In one telling day, Sterling was on his way out and the Los Angeles Clippers prevailed without him. Regardless of Sterling’s view, basketball players do make the game. It’s unfortunate that many of us, although well meaning, view the artists of Mata Ortiz through our own similarly flawed lenses.

        Mexican artists make Mexican art; Mexican potters deserve full credit for their ceramics. Seven hundred years ago, Casas Grandes civilization flourished for several centuries in what would become Mexico.  The center of Casas Grandes, a city we call Paquime, stood near the site of present-day Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua. A number of Casas Grandes people were exceptional artists and left a legacy of fine ceramics. In the twentieth century, a loosely aligned league of Mexican potters, Manuel Olivas, Emeterio Ortiz, Felix Ortiz, Salvador Ortiz, Juan Quezada, Nicolas Quezada, Nicolas Silveira, Rojelio Silveira and others, pioneered the renaissance of Casas Grandes ceramics, now known as Mata Ortiz Pottery. Visitors from the United States played important roles in making the pottery known to people north of the border. Still, as artist Juan Quezada suggests in the Journal of the Southwest, the potters of Mata Ortiz were destined for success with or without connections to any particular agents. Mata Ortiz Pottery was already on the road to greatness when strangers arrived. Mexicans, working together and learning from one another, brought forth the rebirth of Casas Grandes pottery. It took a village, a Mexican village.

Today that village is a vibrant community of artists. Phones, paved roads, email and social media are fast-flowing arteries of communication for this society of worldly potters. They are wise and eloquent professionals, some are English-speaking, and many travel frequently to the United States. They live but a few hours from Silver City, Las Cruces and Tucson. Yet, go to almost any Southwest U.S. forum on Mata Ortiz and observe the speakers. Pay close attention. Are they the best spokespersons for this Mexican art form? Is the history inclusive and complete? Are artists’ dreams and the community’s plans discussed first hand? When needed, do objective translators facilitate direct exchange between presenter and audience? Or is communication impeded by a kind of wall of white, a construct disproportionately non-Latino? Is lopsided attention given to Anglo experience, opinion and influence? Listen carefully. Does the narrative reinforce a subtly colonial point of view? Perhaps emphasis is placed on what we outsiders have done in, and for, Mata Ortiz, rather than what Mata Ortiz potters have done in, and for, the world of art. Have we grown paternalistic and comfortable with that scenario? Maybe like Donald Sterling, some of us cling to lenses that have no place in today’s new forum.

Some of us like to envision the Mata Ortiz of a romanticized past. However, the people of Mata Ortiz are twenty-first century multidimensional individuals, not potters in a stagnant exhibition. Their art is ever-evolving. Each Mata Ortiz potter, like any successful artist, is the creator of her own authenticity, the master of his unique destiny. Only an artist from Mata Ortiz can speak compellingly of his creative desires. Only a Mexican potter can adequately share the truth of her heritage. Mata Ortiz pottery is theirs, an endeavor over which they alone have genuine command. Their art and lives develop in ways only they can articulate. We must listen to their voices. In the words of Mata Ortiz artist Diego Valles, “I believe there should be a potter or citizen of Mata Ortiz in every discussion about it. Don’t you think?” Who can disagree?

As gracious Americans, let’s move to the sidelines. Our view is limited, our commentary incomplete. Let’s make way for the people who are crafting their own extraordinary pottery movement. Let’s hear new voices respectfully revise the outsider-embedded account by presenting a balanced narrative that honors all players in the Mata Ortiz story. It’s 2014 and time for a broad vision of Mata Ortiz and its living Latino art, an image not distorted by Sterling lenses. Let’s welcome a chorus of “Nosotros hacemos las ollas, nosotros hacemos el arte.”  “We make the pots, we make the art.”

 

 Nancy Andrews is the author of the award-winning children’s book, THE POT THAT JUAN BUILT / LA VASIJA QUE JUAN FABRICO, as told to her by Juan Quezada, and illustrated by David Diaz. A percentage of the book’s royalties goes to Mata Ortiz to be used as individuals there determine.