Mata Ortiz, Chihuahua
Born on May 6, 1940 in the town of Tutuaca, Quezada is a Mexican potter known for his pioneering in the reinterpretation of Paquime pottery known as Mata Ortiz pottery. Quezada's story is a remarkable tale of perseverance and raw talent. When he was only 14, and living in a community in severe economic distress, he dropped out of school to help support his family. During his working days collecting firewood in the mountains he discovered pre-Columbian pottery of the Mimbres and Casa Grandes cultures, which ultimately became his main inspiration to create art. Without art education or experts in these cultures, he eventually figured out how the pots were made.
His initial pieces sold for close to $5 USD to American tourists and merchants. Serendipitously, they were discovered by Spencer MacCallum, an anthropologist who tracked Quezada down and helped him break into the larger U.S, market. Quezada's success in pottery sparked interest in the activity by others in the town and he responded by teaching family and friends
. Today there are over 600 people who earn all or part of their income from the pottery. Quezada's work has been displayed in museums and galleries all over the world, and in 1999 he was awarded the National Prize for Arts and Sciences, an award given to the likes of Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco. To this day, Juan Quezada has continued to be recognized as one of the trail blazing pottery masters in the country and throughout the world.