We stopped at a garage sale this Fourth of July weekend and even before I got out of the car I spotted this beautiful Mexican pottery duck.
The sale had been going on for a few hours but nobody else saw anything special about this duck. I loved her at first sight. She’s HUGE by most Mexican pottery bird/duck standards: 15 inches long by almost eight inches wide. She’s about 10 inches tall to the top of her head.
I thought at first she might be a Ken Edwards piece, but she’s signed “Mateos Mexico.” I’ve seen this kind of pottery many times, but nothing so big. And I didn’t know the Mateos name. So I went looking.
I couldn’t find much about my guy Mateos, but I think I can pinpoint this piece to the potteries in Tonala, Guadalajara. At least I hope that’s where it came from, maybe because of this:
This small town on the edge of Guadalajara is an absolute goldmine of potters and pottery and has been an important pottery center going back 3,000 years. When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived on the scene in 1530 they promptly named Tonala the “Factory of Paganism” as it was then a center of production for the clay idols worshipped in surrounding villages.
Nothing like that pagan art!
I found a few mentions of a Tonala potter named Mateos, but most of them came from eBay descriptions so I couldn’t confirm. However, I found a tantalizing clue on a blog called Jim and Carole’s Mexico Adventure.
[Salvador Vasquez Carmona] is teaching his craft to his sons and also has instructed numerous apprentices who later became significant ceramic artists in their own right. One of these, Juan Antonio Mateos, showed up at 7:00 AM for his first day as instructed. After two hours Sr. Vazquez showed up and opened the shop. This same scenario went on for several days. Finally the apprentice asked why he was told to come at 7:00 when work didn’t begin until 9:00. Sr. Vazquez told him that it was a test of his seriousness. Sr. Mateos later became a gifted potter in his own right.
Is this my Mateos? Again, I hope so. I’m under no illusions that my beautiful duck is a precious work of art. No, I’ve actually found a piece very similar in design and size on eBay. These were probably done for the tourist and/or retail trade, but I’m okay with that. Beauty is beauty wherever you find it.
I do want to know who made it and when it was made. I’m mad for anything vintage, so I hope it’s at least from the Seventies. I have a feeling it’s fairly new, though. The glaze appears fresh and there are no signs of staining or grime or cracking. (Cracking on the unglazed bottom is expected on old Mexican pottery, I’ve heard).
So if you know anything more about her, please let me know. Anything at all. We’ll be fine, the both of us, with whatever you might come up with.
But isn’t it amazing that mi pata hermosa de México looks so at home in my up north cabin? (I think she’s going to be very happy here.)
Hope your holiday weekend was as delightful as mine was.