Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Pot That Juan Built

I am a sucker for children's books, and I found a great one about pottery that I'd like to share with you. The Pot That Juan Built, by Nancy Andrews-Goebel is a biography of Juan Quezada, who is a potter in a village in Mexico. The first part of the book is a children's story illustrated by David Diaz. It starts off with, "This is the pot that Juan Built. These are the flames so sizzling hot that flickered and flared and fired the pot, the beautiful pot that Juan built." It goes on to tell how he gathered manure from cows to make his fire hot enough, he used his own hair for a brush to paint the pots, found rocks to color his paint with, followed ants to the site of the clay... And so on. It's the story of a pot, every step of the way.

What I loved most about this book was that it is based on a real person who revitalized his community through pottery. His village, Mata Ortiz, was a struggling village in northern Chihuahua, Mexico. Many of the residents were seasonal workers and could barely feed their families. This changed in 1976, when an anthropologist traced one of Juan Quezada's pots from a second-hand shop in New Mexico to Mata Ortiz and found Juan. This anthropologist introduced Juan's pottery to art patrons in the United States. Because of this response, Juan began making pots full time and taught his neighbors and family how to make them as well. Mata Ortiz transformed into a thriving community of potters! Now more than 400 artists live in Mata Ortiz (the village has a total population of two thousand people). All of the pots are made using only local materials.
It is really great to see pottery change lives!

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