Thursday, September 17, 2009

Collecting Vintage Mexican Pottery

Show and tell time! :-) I started collecting old lead-glazed mexican pottery in the late 1970s, back when no one was interested in it. Most of the pieces I like best were made in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. My collection is not huge, because I only keep those pieces that are my favorites. Over the years of course it has become popular and may sometimes be very pricey. But great pieces are still out there, and you can still make a nice collection without much investment.

While it is probably ok to handle it (you can wash your hands after), lead-glazed pots should not be used to serve food. Although the risk of lead leaching into the food is small (most people today in their 50s or older who grew up or lived in the southwest - not to mention Mexico - have eaten out of this stuff before learning it was not wise to do so), it is better to be safe than sorry.

Lead glazes were not used on all old mexican pottery. Many types, including burnished ware, were free of lead. Also, newer redware and yellow-ware pots do not have lead in the glaze and are still beautiful, so they are also an option. "Redware" and "Yellow Ware" refer to the color of the clay the pots are made of. The bean pots below are "redware".

The main thing I love about mexican pottery is that it makes utility beautiful. With each piece, natural talent shows in the way it was painted or formed or glazed. I love when I can see the
fingerprints of the potter or glazer in a finished piece. I love the detailed paintings that reflect natural talent - trained perhaps in pottery but not in art. I love the flaws that make it perfect.

Here are two recent additions to my collection. The little nested ashtray set is just right for Fall decorating, with its black crow. I think it is the only piece I have with a black bird on it (though I
have many with birds - birds are probably my favorite animal in art). I found it in a local secondhand shop.

This ADORABLE little turkey casserole is the latest. He was my birthday present from Paul (Thank you honey!). Our friends had gotten him recently at an auction, and had put him up for sale. So thanks, too, to our friends for selling it!

We used to find chicken and turkey casseroles often, out in West Texas. We sold a lot of them! I only have one chicken casserole and now this turkey one in my collection. Prior to that, the only chicken I had kept for any length of time was a Tlaquepaque one that eventually got too valuable to keep!

Tlaquepaque is the name of a region in Mexico. Mexican pottery - actually nearly all pottery from any country - is classified by the region in which it was made. I am not snobbish about the regions I collect, because monetary value has nothing to do with why I love these pots. So I don't study them and I am no expert. I just buy what I like.

I love them because they were a part of the ordinary work and life of ordinary people. For all of us who live in the Southwest, they are a part of our heritage. Our Melting Pot American Heritage!

12/23/10 - updating to add a new tag and link to a newer post on Mexican Pottery. Thanks for visiting and I hope you'll tell me about your own collection too. :-)

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