Mata Ortiz Information

Of Interest

¶  Computers Needed at the Mata Ortiz School

Computer education has finally taken off in Mata Ortiz. Parents have formed a group and are pursuing the matter with a wonderful passion. Walt Parks (909-684-4224, <>) talked at length last month with the Asociación Padres y Familia de Telesecundario (President, Yolanda Rentería; Secretary, Uriel López; Treasurer, Manuel Molina), which raised the funds for the Secondary School (grades 7-9) to build a one-room, separate building for computer studies. They then solicited 50 pesos per computer student per family per year and hired a teacher to come to school one day a week to teach the 24 who enrolled in the program. The teaching day consists of three two-hour classes of eight pupils each. The school has four operating computers to work with—the remainder of the dozen used computers Tom Fresh brought down several years ago. So eight students have to work with four computers.

Does anyone know a possible source of some used computers that would be capable of handling Windows 98 or 2000? Now that regular telephone service is coming to Mata Ortiz, Internet access will be possible. This means that the next generation of Mata Ortiz artists will be able to market their work directly and perform design services worldwide. Exciting possibilities!

The group gave Walt Parks a tour of the school proper, consisting of three classrooms. Walt was appalled at the desperate need of school furniture, mainly desks (desk-chair combination). What they have was cheap to begin with and now barely holds together. If anyone wants to assist the community, there is a need of good used computers and school furniture.

¶  Silver Jewelry in Mata Ortiz

            Can you picture Mata Ortiz designs translated into silver? Micky Vanderwagen, Mesilla, New Mexico, has purchased the historic land and buildings that once was the site of the Pearson Sawmill adjoining Mata Ortiz on the north. The property is already referred to as "Rancho Miki." He has leased out the agricultural operation and converted the buildings into silver workshops, which became operational in August. Any and all who are interested are welcome to learn. Tuition is nominal. Micky’s goal is a silver jewelry industry with a "wholly new look," using only Mata Ortiz designs and, so far as possible, only stones from the local area. The curriculum includes hand working silver, silver casting, leather tooling, lapidary, and facetted-gem cutting. Although the first student, Ariel Renteria, shows an aptitude that is nothing short of amazing, it will be some time yet before Mata Ortiz jewelry is marketed. For information, contact the Calendar (775-482-2038; fax 5897).

¶  Mata Ortiz Library Progresses Slowly

The Mata Ortiz Foundation, set up as a fund of the International Community Foundation of San Diego, a 502 (c) (3) entity, is dedicated to working with the people of Mata Ortiz to benefit their community by combining tax-deductible donations from here with local resources. Unidos por Mata Ortiz, a non-profit formed in the village, initiates village projects and requests Foundation grants. In January of last year, Unidos decided to make their first project a community library. Manuel Mora, school teacher and president of Unidos, studied the process via a university extension course and obtained the needed federal and state approvals together with a promise of books and materials. A private Mexican supplier of educational materials has donated educational videos. County (municipio) officials agreed to provide an employee to staff the library, and the Ejido of  Mata Ortiz turned over a building along the river street. So the library now exists, but there is more to do before it will be fully functioning. Furnishings—tables and chairs, desks, lights, shelving—must be obtained and installed, and the building must be expanded to accommodate bathrooms, computers and videos. Physical renovation of the building is about half completed.

            The cause of the delay is that Mexico City's Hacienda (equivalent to our IRS) rejected the Registro (equivalent to our 501.c3 document) applied for by Unidos por Mata Ortiz. Said they required more information. So the application has been re-filed with new information. Ever consider how much easier and more prosperous life might be without our so-called public servants? Meanwhile, work continues on the building. Re-wiring has been completed and expanded metal security windows installed. Things are coming along!

You can help by sending your tax-exempt gift to the Mata Ortiz Foundation at 1420 Kettner Blvd, Suite 500, San Diego CA 92101. Contact Walter P. Parks, Foundation Advisor (909-684-4224), 6154 Hawarden, Riverside CA 92506 

Pot Packing 101
Yes, it is possible to safely ship a pot. Part of the secret is double-boxing. Another part is not packing the wadding too tightly; the pot and the inner box want to have some give. A physicist once explained the dynamics of breakage. It's not the first hit that breaks something when it falls to the floor; on the first hit, the pot or whatever it is only bounces. It's the vibration that bounce sets up, in conjunction with the second strike, that is the killer. So, to damp all the vibration you can, loosely fill the pot itself with the paper wadding or popcorn or whatever you're using, and then pack the wadding lightly enough around the pot and around the inner box that the pot and box can move just a bit. Of course the outer box wants to be strong. Do not neglect to wrap the pot itself in a plastic bag to protect the painted design or burnished surface from chafing in transit.


¶  Protective Rings for Pots

            Any good pot will balance without a ring. Nevertheless, most collectors support pots on rings to avoid scratching the bottom and, in earthquake areas, to stabilize them. While clay rings are available in the village, other kinds of rings have been hard to find. Here are several sources:

            (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) High quality rings for an especially handsome effect are made by trader 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 diameters are available, from 2" to 6" by half-inch increments. Cost $6 to $15 each.

            (3) "Cylinder acrylic riser sets" (Cat. #408037/37) designed for elevating pots in display 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.

            (4) Cast acrylic rings can be ordered from Jule-Art Inc. (800-833-8980), PO Box 91748, Albuquerque, NM 87199. Gallery owner Wally Blanchard, who told us about these, usually buys 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 cuts them in two with a table saw to double his investment. The 1/2-inch height is just right for most pots.

(5) Budget protective rings can be made from small tubing. Richard Erlanger, Saga Gallery, South Norwalk, CT, gives one to each customer buying a pot. He writes:  “Ask at any good quality 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 wish 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 the 1/4" tubing you are better off using the heavier frosted white vinyl tubing). Now you've a nice 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 sizes for both aesthetics and safety. Very thick tubing does not bend easily, and the 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 smooth curve.”

Note: To protect a pot against earthquake, weight it with a "bean bag" of sand or lead shot. For further protection, 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 because they will stain), available from FWH, Seattle. Contact Florence Helliesen at 206-285-1755.

¶  Insuring a Collection

Arch Thiessen, of Sunshine Studio (800-348-9273,, recommends that anyone with a valuable art collection (1) insure it, (2) keep a photo record, and (3) participate in a Theft Alert system.

Scheduling a small collection on a Homeowner's or Renter's policy is simple and effective, but expensive. Antique Tribal Art Dealers' Association (ATADA) and many other professional associations have group policies.

For $100 annual fee, collectors can become an Associate Member of ATADA and access their group policy. For large collections, this may be attractive. Many dealers buy full membership, entitling them to a dealer's policy covering their place of business, shows, transit, etc. Visit ATADA's website:

ATADA has a Theft Alert system. Anyone, member or not, can post details of a stolen item on their web page. A Theft Alert then goes to members, who forward it to their correspondents. Within hours, many collectors and dealers are watching for the stolen items. Contact Alice Kaufman, ATADA executive director, at

[Note: Be aware that digital records of your collection 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! ­Editors]

¶  Solar Kiln

Master potter Jorge Quintana and Tom Fresh experimented to develop a solar kiln of non-exotic, simple construction. In experiments at Tom’s home near Idyllwild CA temperatures were reached that have melted Pyrex. The problem is not heat so much as an even distribution. The two pursued the project as a technical challenge without knowing whether it might have any practical consequences. Tom is convalescing from a serious illness. Until his health returns, any who are interested in participating in these experiments should contact Jorge Quintana or Spencer MacCallum (775-482-2038; Fax 5897), Box 180, Tonopah NV 89049.