Pottery is perhaps the most prevalent of Mexico's crafts and was considered one of the highest art forms during the Aztec Empire.
The majority of Mexican pottery is unglazed and thus, lead-free. It is often found either plain or decorated with colours, slips, oxides or burnished.
Pottery objects are handcrafted in the shade, either at a table or on the ground. Pots and large shapes are built up from coiling the clay into a circle, then up the sides, then scraping and moulding until the coils are no longer detected.
Details are pinched into shape with the fingers or simple tools. Clay is scraped with a piece of a gourd and smoothed using natural tools, such as small sticks of wood and stones.
Firing takes place outdoors in a rustic kiln made of adobe bricks to protect the items from uneven draught or in an open fire.
Explore Mexican Pottery
This small Tzeltal village right in the centre of Chiapas state is renowned for its beautifully decorated pottery, which has its origins in pre-hispanic cultures of the region.
Earthenware items include utilitarian and zoomorphic figures decorated with natural and synthetic dyes in geometric and floral designs.
A small Nahuatl village located in Hidalgo state near Veracruz. Alongside Macuxtepetla, Oxtomal and Tepexititla these communities provide the earthenware utensils for the whole region. Its distinctive style and technique have been in use from pre-hispanic times.
The Tarahumara (also known as Raramuri) from the highlands of Northern Mexico have crafted pottery for thousands of years without a wheel, coiling the clay, then scraping or smoothing with a wood stick or stone to smooth the clay before firing.
Los Reyes Metzontla
This small Popoloca village, located within the Tehuacán Cuicatlán biosphere reserve is known for its burnished pottery, a technique that is still practised. Pieces are not glazed but rather polished with a hard object, making the surface of the finished product very shiny. This technique makes their pottery harder and more waterproof.
This community, today immersed in the industrial area of Toluca, State of Mexico was once inhabited by the indigenous group of the Matlatzinca. It has remained however an important pottery centre and continues its pottery traditions in many forms.
This Chontal village located in Tabasco is home to traditional potters who create simple and rustic, yet functional and beautiful pottery. The Chontal are the indigenous people of Tabasco.
This community of Michoacan state is known for its fantastic, colourful and often playful figures. The Purepecha, a group of indigenous people centred in the northwestern region of Michoacán, are known for their skill in weaving and pottery.
The town of Patambán in the southwest of the Patzcuaro lake area is distinguished by the quality of the glaze and the fine clay used. Moreover, the exquisite and fine decorations of these pieces are remarkable.
Deep inside Oaxaca’s highlands of the Sierra Juarez is Tavehua, a small and quiet Zapotec village. Artisans create traditional cookware and a variety of crafts. But perhaps Tavehua’s most distinguished craft is their very playful animal figures. A unique feature of these crafts is the clay’s peculiar orange tones, which are naturally occurring.
This small village, part of the great city of Monte Alban is mostly known for its green glazed pottery but it also has a rich tradition of miniature making. One notable workshop is that of Manuela Velasco, who specialises in miniature, jewellery and filigree clay. Its intrinsic and charming figures are functional and irresistible.
San Agustín Oapan
Artisans from this small Nahuatl village in Guerrero state produce highly artistic scenes portraying their customs and traditions. These scenes are incorporated into their crafts, which include paper, pottery and wood. The use of natural slips is still practised which displays an array of red earthy tones.
This Mixtec community located in Guerrero state is home of highly talented artisans that use their traditional ecological knowledge The unique colours and simple motifs in these crafts is what makes them particularly attractive.