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Mexican Pottery

Mexican ceramics are an excellent example of North America's oldest pottery practices. From Chihuahua to Puebla, the ceramic traditions of Mexico are incredibly diverse.

Mexican pottery can be traced to the beginning of the Bronze Age. Early vessels took simple shapes, and decoration was in the form of a thin clay slip applied to the vessel’s exterior. Practices began to change upon the arrival of Hernan Cortés in the early years of the 16th century as part of the Spanish Conquest. With European ceramic examples, Mexican potters began to create more elaborate and refined designs while also incorporating more varied glazing techniques.

Over time, different regions of Mexico yielded their own unique approaches to pottery. Artisans in Oaxaca state perfected the art of black clay pottery as well as green-glazed pottery, an approach indigenous to the small town of Santa Maria Atzompa. Ceramists in Jalisco state specialized in what is known as "bruñido," or burnished, pieces that are highly decorated with polychrome and then polished to an unrivaled shine. The result of this ingenuity is a field of antique and vintage Mexican pottery that tells its own cultural and artistic tale.

Quick Facts

  • Though early Mexican potters produced their vessels primarily by hand, there is evidence to suggest that Zapotec artists as early as the first millennium had devised a rudimentary potter’s wheel for uniform pots
  • In addition to introducing new pottery types and styles from Asia and Europe, the Spanish also exposed Mexicans to the closed kiln
  • One of the most striking pottery forms unique to the Mexican ceramic tradition is the "Tree of Life" sculpture. These ceramic installations appeared as early as the first millennium B.C. and are still popular today

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