Mata Ortiz pottery with traditional designs, like this olla, is based on the excavated ceramics of the pre-Hispanic town of Paquimé, home of the Casas Grande people, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. This large jar was created by the late Mata Ortiz master potter Manuel L. Olivas (1941-2007), who is featured in the 1991 book "The story of Cases Grandes Pottery" by Rick Cahill (pictured). Cahill writes that "Manuel Olivas...was one of the first potters in the Casas Grandes Valley to recreate vessels of the ancients. Manuel uses a crude potter's wheel, a primitive kiln and reproduces pots that are replicas of the ancient Casas Grandes Indians. They are well executed and quite elegant..."
The traditional Cases Grandes black and red symbols were hand painted on the tan clay. There are three panels, each with lightning bolts, birds and geometric designs. On each panel, the size and arrangement of the symbols is different. The bottom of the jar has Manuel's handwritten signature clearly etched in the clay.
This is a large olla, measuring 8 1/2 inches tall, with a 34 inch circumference and a 4 inch wide mouth. It weighs 4 pounds and displays handsomely despite the chip in the rim, which we've shown in a very close-up photo. It's not nearly as obvious in person, since it reveals the same color clay underneath, but it does affect the price. It's a superb olla by a master Mexican ceramicist, one of the founders of the Mata Ortiz pottery movement.