January 1, 2017
Of General Interest to Artists,
(619-420-7782), 616 Second Avenue, Chula Vista, CA 91910, a
senior member of the American Society of Appraisers, has
appraised collections of Mata Ortiz art.
(303-534-0771), owner, Native American Trading Company, 213 W.
13th Avenue, Denver, CO 80204, appraises Southwest
ceramics including prehistoric Casas Grandes pottery and Mata
Deer-bone burnishers are the type used by Juan Quezada. This
extremely smooth tool, about 4-5 inches long with various curves
and ends, is superior to any stone-and-oil method and will last
If you know someone who is going to Mata Ortiz, you may be able
to get one directly from Juan or his wife, Guillermina. Or if
you prefer, make one yourself. The method is no secret. Take the
fresh foreleg bone of a deer with joints closed and attached,
clean it, wrap it in a cotton cloth, and put it away in
your closet or a very dry place for a year or more (if not kept
dry, you will get mold and maggots). This allows the marrow to
permeate the bone so that it will glide more readily. Split the
bone lengthwise into four sections and these into shorter
sections, and sand, ending with #600 black grit paper. Why does
Juan choose deer bone? Because he watched all the animals and
saw that "the deer can jump highest, and its bones are finer and
Here is Juan Quezada’s method for burnishing dry, unfired clay,
using his own low-fire, volcanic-pumice body. He dries, sands,
and then covers the surface of the pot with baby oil. When the
glisten disappears, he smoothes the surface with a slightly damp
cloth. It’s important not to dampen the entire pot at once, but
to leave larger dry sections in between the dampened, or the pot
will dissolve. The purpose of dampening is to rub the powder
created from sanding in a circular motion, filling in any
pitting. He then repeats and burnishes when the pot is
completely dry. You will notice the difference immediately. The
bone burnisher makes a faster, higher luster, deeper polish.
Pot Packing 101
Yes, it is possible to safely ship a pot. Part of the secret is
double-boxing. Another is not packing
the wadding too tightly; both the pot and the inner
box should have some give. A physicist once explained the
dynamics of breakage. It's not the first hit that breaks a pot
when it falls to the floor. On that first hit, the pot is only
bounces. The vibration the bounce sets up, however, causes the
pot to break on the second strike. Therefore, damp all the
vibration you can by loosely filling the pot with the paper
wadding, popcorn, or whatever it is you're using, and then pack
the wadding lightly enough around the pot and around the inner
box that both can move just a bit. Of course the outer box wants
to be strong. Don’t neglect to wrap the pot in a plastic bag to
protect the surface from chafing—or from ink transfer if
newspaper is your packing material. Your local newspaper may be
willing to give you clean newsprint for free from the unused end
of a roll. So when visiting the village, take flattened boxes,
plastic bags, and newspapers or newsprint. Bubble wrap is very
good, but bulky.
Shelley Corwin submits the following from Chinese Clay
Arts: “Whether as a gift or for an exhibition, how to get your
fragile art work to arrive safely at its destination is a tough
question for many ceramic artists.
I have been trying a Flexible Foam material for packing my
ceramic art works. It works perfectly. Here are the step-by-step
instructions: (1) Obtain a carton box with about two inches of
extra space around the piece. (2) Make the bottom portion first.
Spray the foam in the box and cover with a plastic sheet on top,
then lay the art piece on top of that and wait for six hours or
overnight. Now you can make the top portion by using another
plastic sheet to cover the surface of your piece and spraying
the foam again. (3) After a few hours, your fragile art work
will be perfectly surrounded and protected by the foam, as well
as ready to be shipped out, preferably using double boxes. The
flexible foam material can be found in most building material
stores such as Home Depot. Ask for Insulating Foam Sealant
Window & Door, 16 OZ, $6.78 each. The Dow Chemical Company, Tel.
Protective Rings for Pots
Any pot worth its salt will balance without a supporting ring.
Nevertheless, most collectors use rings to avoid scratching the
bottom and, in earthquake areas, to stabilize the pot. Sometimes
just a jar lid helps, but choose the size carefully. Clay rings,
some wrapped with yarn, are available in the village for around
a dollar each, but be sure to pick one that is perfectly round,
so that the pot will be stable. Here are some sources for other
kinds of rings:
(1) Attractive molded nylon rings in black, white, or
other colors are available in three sizes, inside diameter 2
1/4" ($2.75/pair), 2 5/8" $3.15/pair), and 2 7/8" ($3.50/pair),
from Rochelle P. Price (602-237-3514 / Fax 237-3514), 11605 S.
Price Lane, Laveen AZ 85339.
(2) The highest quality rings, if you are looking for a
particularly good appearance, are those made by Herman Knechtle
(626-447-1346), 140 E. Santa Clara Street #16, Arcadia CA 91006.
They are cast rather than extruded, have greater wall thickness
(3/16" for the first 4 sizes and thereafter 1/4"), are beveled
45 degrees on the upper edge, and flame polished. Herman is an
exacting craftsman. Heights range from 3/4" to 1 1/2". Nine
diameter sizes are available, from 2" to 6" by half-inch
increments. Cost $6 to $15 each.
(3) Cast acrylic rings can be ordered from Jule-Art Inc.
(800-833-8980), PO Box 91748, Albuquerque, NM 87199.
Wally Blanchard, who told us about these, usually bought 2",
3"and 4" diameter rings, which range from $1.35 to $2.35 each.
Both ends are beveled. The rings are at least 1" high, so he
usually cut them in two with a table saw to halve his
investment. The 1/2-inch height is right for most pots.
(4) "Cylinder acrylic riser sets" (Cat. #408037/37)
designed for elevating pots in displays are available from Rio
Grand (800-545-6566), 7500 Bluewater NW, Albuquerque NM 87121.
Each set of three includes one 2" x 2" (diameter x height), one
3x3, and one 4x4. They are 1/8" thickness. Per-set price ranges
from $19.45 for 1 or 2 to $15.97 for 12 or more.
(5) You can make budget protective rings from small tubing.
Richard Erlanger, Saga Gallery, South Norwalk, CT, gives one to
each customer. He writes:
“Ask at any good hardware store for clear vinyl tubing
for, say, air conditioning draining. A popular size is 5/8"
outside dimension (OD) by 3/8" inside dimension (ID). Cut a
short length (1" or so) of the next smaller size, for example 3
/8" OD by 1/4" ID, and with spittle insert it like a plug into
the ends of the larger size tube, which has been precut into a
suitable ring size for the pot you want to support, and draw the
ends together. The next smaller combination (3/8"OD x 1/4"ID)
works well when held together by the next smaller size, 1/4"OD
x.170 ID. (Note: With 1/4" tubing you are better off using the
heavier frosted white vinyl tubing). Now you have a clear ring
with the ends firmly plugged together. Display the pot with the
seam turned to the back. If the final ring is too large, cut it
to suit. Experiment with different sizes for both aesthetics and
safety. Very thick tubing does not bend easily, and very thin
sometimes does not hold a curve. Avoid inexpensive tubing like
that offered by Home Depot that doesn’t have the heft to keep a
Note: For further protection against earthquake, weight a pot
with a "bean bag" of sand or lead shot. Then, if you wish,
secure the supporting ring to the shelf with Museum Wax, Museum
Putty, or clear Museum Gel (but don't put any of these on the
pot itself, as they will stain). These special adhesives are
available from, among other places, FWH, Seattle (call Florence
Helliesen at 206-285-1755).
Stickers "Made in Mexico" are required on every pot that enters
the United States. All of the regular tapes will permanently
stain a pot, so if you have to use such a tape or sticker, put
it in an inconspicuous place, like inside the lip (but where
it's still visible) or on the inside bottom. If your hand won't
reach inside, press the sticker down, just enough so that it
will stick, with the eraser end of a long wooden pencil (be sure
there's no clay dust inside that will prevent it sticking).
Ideally, however, you should use a tape that is least likely to
stain and that you can write the required words on directly.
Such a tape is 3M Safe-Release Scotch Masking tape No. 2080,
available in most large hardware or building supply stores
(however, don’t leave even this tape for an extended period of
time, as even it may leave a stain). Since we live in Casas
Grandes, we try to keep some of this tape on hand to accommodate
visitors. Meanwhile, any of the galleries or any of the people
you buy from will probably be glad to give you paper stickers
for your pots if you ask. Even stickers cut from Postits will
serve. Apply them just before crossing and remove
them immediately after. Currently, it appears that the “Made in
Mexico” stickers are only being required on pots that are
crossing the border for resale.
Even if you are purchasing pots for your own
personal collection, you should keep a list of the pots you
bought that details the artist and amount paid.
US Customs officials may ask to see your list.
The MacCallums) have some information, available on request,
about insuring pottery collections. In documenting any
collection for insurance or other purposes, be aware that
digital records are not permanent; they begin breaking down in
5-7 years, whereas analog records (photos, microfilm) last a
century or more. Back up with analog!
Pointers for Pottery Workshops/Demonstrations
The dramatic highpoint of any
pottery demonstration is the open-air firing, yet many galleries
and museums sponsoring a demonstration in the United States
think they can’t include this because they’ve no place for it.
Without exception, however, in our experience, fire marshals
have been understanding and cooperative, and with a simple
platform of firebrick, a firing does no harm even to lawn grass
underneath. Better even than firebrick is a cement board called
“Durock,” available from Home Depot, which doesn’t reflect and
makes an excellent platform. It comes 4’ x 8’ and can be cut
into a piece 4 x 6, which allows room for scraping the coals to
one side. Do not, if at all possible, miss this exciting
culmination of a pottery demonstration.
Crossing the Border with Clay:
An important part of
every pottery workshop is the experience of working with clay
mined at Mata Ortiz. This ball clay* has qualities of plasticity
and stability in forming that make it preferred by both Mata
Ortiz instructors and students. While some people have
experienced delays at the border when crossing with this clay,
it is not prohibited if you know where to find the pertinent
regulation. Proceed as follows:
[Animal & Plant Inspection Service,
(2) Using the search
engine, go to “PPQ and Manuals”
(3) Look for “USDA -
APHIS - Import & Export.” [This will
probably be the first item you see]
(4) Go there and
click on “Port Programs”
(5) Scroll to “Plant
Importation Manuals” and click on
This brings up the 208-page manual,
(6) Go to Table
5-150, “Soil as Such and Related Materials.”
Under that heading, look for “Lacking the documents…,”
then for “Live Rock, Peat, Soil or its Components,” and
finally “Clay.” At “Clay,” you will find “Footnote 3,” which
“Ball clay, milled, mined, or refined, clay free from organic
matter that is intended for use in ceramics, cosmetics, or
manufacturing falls outside the scope of the soil regulations.”
Officer Helfrich (520-364-7376), Agriculture, at the Douglas,
Arizona port of entry provided this information. She further
said that clay must come in as a commercial entry through the
Cargo Dock, for which there is a $10.75 fee. The import
specialist at the dock said that moist or dry does not make a
You will need Informal Entry form 7523 (the form for
imports valued at less than $2000) filled out in triplicate. To
save time, prepare this form in advance. It can be obtained on
request from the Cargo Dock at any port of entry. (You can’t go
directly to a Cargo Dock, but go through the pedestrian walk and
ask, and you’ll be directed to the Dock.)
The form calls for a Harmonized Tariff Schedule Code
number, which we did not find at the Customs & Border Protection
web site (www.cbp.gov)
we were referred to, but the Cargo Officer at the Douglas port
of entry told us by phone that if we were not successful in
locating it, he would help us once we arrived.
Also required is an invoice identifying the importation
and its value. In the case of clay, this need not be more than a
few words on a sheet of paper describing it and giving an
estimate of value, which would be the cost of the labor to mine
and refine it, something in the neighborhood of $25 for the
quantity needed for a public demonstration or workshop.
Officer Helfrich recommended phoning the port the morning
of the day of crossing. The numbers for the nearest ports of
entry are: Naco AZ, 520-432-5349; Douglas AZ, 520-364-8486;
Antelope Wells NM, 575-436-2792 (open only 8-4pm daily and no
commercial importation at this port); Columbus NM, 575-531-2686;
Santa Teresa NM, 575-589-9354; and
El Paso TX, 915-872-3444.
Note that the Cargo Docks are closed weekends. Their
hours are 9-5 Mon-Thu and 9-6 on Friday.
* Ball clays
are kaolinitic sedimentary clays, fine-grained and plastic in
nature, that are mined in many areas of the world including
northern Chihuahua for making ceramic articles. The name is
believed to have originated because when the clay was mined by
hand, it was cut into 15 to 17-kilogram cubes. During transport
the corners of the cubes rounded off leaving "balls." For
further information see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ball_clay
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