Galería Juan Quezada - Atlas Obscura

Galería Juan Quezada

Mata Ortiz, Mexico

A small gallery in the home of the founding father of Mata Ortiz pottery. 


This is the home of the late potter and artisan Juan Quezada Celadon. Back in the 1950s, Quezada began producing clay creations inspired by and mimicking the patterns found on artifacts from before Mexico’s colonization.

As a teenager, Quezada found ceramics from the Paquimé culture in a cave near his home. He began to collect these pieces, and tried to reproduce the styles and patterns he found on them. He had no experience with pottery when he first started but after years of trial and error, Quezada was able to create ceramics similar to the ones he had found.

Quezada began selling his ceramics and sharing the knowledge he had gained with friends and family. As it became popular outside of their region, demand grew. Today, Mata Ortiz is known for this style of pottery.

There are a variety of galleries to visit, sometimes just folks in their homes, around Mata Ortiz. People are friendly and happy to show you their work. A long-form documentary, The Renaissance of Mata Ortiz, tells the story of Juan Quezada and American Spencer MacCallum (who brought Quezada’s work to the United States).

Know Before You Go

Mata Ortiz is a 3-4 hour drive from the US border, depending on whether you cross at El Paso, Columbus (NM), Antelope Wells (NM), or Douglas (AZ). You'll need special Mexican car insurance when driving in Mexico, regardless of whether you own the car or it's a rental. It's mostly driving on highways, with a few small towns on the way. Nuevo Casas Grandes is the closest "big" town that has supermarkets, banking, etc. The wonderful Paquimé ruins and museum in Casas Grandes are on the way from Nuevo Casas Grandes to Mata Ortiz.

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