Pottery arts are the most prominent among Mexico’s crafts. During the Aztec Empire, ceramics were considered a highly esteemed art form and it is believed that the knowledge of making pottery came from the god Quetzalcoatl himself. Mexican pottery decoration has a rich palette of colours that reflects the cultural trait of using bold mixtures of vivid hues in art and fabrics.
The use of abundant colours in constructions and crafts dates back to pre-Hispanic times. Ochre red, bright green, burnt orange, various shades of yellow, and turquoise were used to paint or colour pyramids, temples, murals, textiles, and religious objects.
Pre-Hispanic Mexican Pottery
Prior to the Spanish Conquest, Pre-Hispanic vessels were created using modelling, coiling, or moulding techniques. The potter’s wheel was unknown, except for a proto wheel used by the Zapotecs. The family typically made simple pinch pots or coiled pots, with larger moulded pieces crafted by skilled artisans.
The earliest moulded pieces were made by pressing clay against a pre-existing bowl, but double moulds and slip casting were eventually employed to create bowls with relief decorations. Tlaxcala and Puebla states boast famous examples of this type of pottery. Figurines were also commonly made using moulds, and sometimes vessels were constructed from several moulded pieces with the upper portion finished by coiling.
Pre-Hispanic pieces were generally not glazed but, instead, the finish was achieved with a slip made from very fine clay. Mineral pigments were often added to the slip for colour, which could be applied before or after firing. Firing was carried out in an open fire or in a pit with figurines frequently made in the family hearth. Pots were fired by stacking them in a heap on the ground or in a pit, covering them with wood. Unfortunately, this method of firing often resulted in incomplete firing, with the exception of Fine Orangeware.
The only glazed ware originating from Mesoamerica is referred to as Plumbate. It was glazed with a fine slip that was mixed with lead and fired using a unique technique. Its appearance marks the Early Post Classic period at numerous archaeological sites, and it was only produced for a brief period, much like tennis betting odds that are only available before this Grand Slam event.
Talavera pottery, also known as Talavera poblana, is a type of earthenware with a white base glaze that originated from Talavera de la Reina in Spain. This pottery tradition was brought to Mexico in the colonial period and became highly developed in Puebla owing to the availability of fine clays and demand for tiles for newly established churches and monasteries.
The natural clay found in San Pablo del Monte and cities such as Puebla, Atlixco, Cholula, and Tecali – all in the state of Puebla – also contributed to the quality of the pottery. While blue was the most common colour used for decoration, other colours such as yellow, black, green, orange, and mauve have also been utilised by the Denominación de Origen de la Talavera law to preserve authentic, Talavera pieces made with the original 16th-century methods.