Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Few More Examples of Vintage Mexican Pottery

For those of us in the Southwest, the fusion of cultures has always been evident in our lives, and a big part of the reason we are so passionate about the places we live.

Who are we? We're Texans. We aren't Swedish-Texans or Mexican-Texans or African-Texans or German-Texans or Vietnamese-Texans or Spanish-Texans or Californian-Texans or New Yorker-Texans. No matter where we're from or how we grew up, we aren't hyphenated: we're all one. The American Melting Pot is alive and well and still doing its good work in Texas.

This applies to our decorating styles as well as the way we live and go about our business every day. And Mexican pottery is a part of the exuberant style that characterizes Texas homes of all sorts.

Some of Pecan Corner's more popular posts, week in and week out, are about collecting vintage Mexican pottery. So I thought I'd show off some more of my collection, and add a little information about the styles and types.

The pieces that stay with me are special in their own right - my focus has always been simply whether I love the individual piece. As antiquers, though, we've sold a lot of it over the years, and I tend to sell things if the price shoots up - mainly so I don't have to worry about breaking something valuable! So while I never needed to learn about it in order to collect, I did learn some things in order to sell those pieces that don't need to stay in my house.

There was a time where Mexican pottery chicken casseroles were as common in Texas homes as Singer sewing machines. For years, we bought them weekly and sold them just as quickly. So many of them have moved in to larger collections now that they are harder to find. This one was a present from Paul a couple of years ago. We think the "come hither" look in her eyes is adorable.

This pottery skillet is done in a style called "Fantasia", for obvious reasons. Most commonly found in the blue decoration on cream colored background like this one, it can also be found in other colors, such as green
on terracotta ground. The all-over pattern of stylized florals and animals in a single color is the telltale characteristic. Paul loves this, and is partial to the blue-and-cream.

The urn-shaped vases in this group are my favorite type of ware, called "Petatillo". The detailed crosshatching filling all the space surrounding the main images make it immediately recognizable. Written in pencil on the bottom of the largest one is "Guadalahara Bought in Tampico 1939". The middle-sized one has the partial remains of its original paper label "La Casa Del _____ Monterrey".

This colorful wall plate is purely decorative, and made of "burnished ware", meaning the partially-dried clay was rubbed, or burnished, to a sheen with a stick. Probably made in Tonala, this technique was shared by pueblo Indian potters, including the famous San Ildefonso wares. It isn't as highly fired as the lead-glazed redware that is my favorite, so it didn't last as long, but it has a character all its own.

My bean pots are just that: bean pots. Made for households to cook in, utilitarian but still decorated to make the work a little more pleasant. we all love pretty dishes, no matter what culture we come from. And that may be almost instinctual - pottery making was one of mankind's earliest arts, and those early pieces are identifiable because they are decorated.

In our globally-uniform professionally-marketed designer-driven retail culture, everything is the same, no matter where it is from. Machine-made or hand-made doesn't change that, and we can find ourselves driven from novelty to novelty in a fruitless search for the authentic and original.

This old pottery is both of those things. Authentic and produced by people who sold it to make a living using the materials at hand and the techniques developed by their grandfathers, original in the work of each artist that painted it using his own ideas and natural talent to express himself that day.

It is what it is. There's very little we can truthfully say that about these days.

6/6/11 Update: Thanks to Pat @ SIGIS for the link! :-)


  1. Hello! I was wondering if you could please lend me a helping had. I have some vintage Mexican pottery and I just cant find anything on it. I know that it is Tlaqueplaque style but I am not sure what year. I feel that it could be in the early 1900's. I have 32 pieces that my grandmother left me.

  2. Hi Analis, I'm not an expert but if you want to post a photo and link to it, I'll be glad to take a look. If you can also show a picture of the back of a piece, that can be helpful too.

    Do you know when your grandmother might have visited Mexico, or did she live in the Southwest? Figuring out when/where she acquired it can be useful too - especially nice to know for heirlooms :-)



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