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Matiz Jewlery

Matiz jewlery is the name, given by Spencer MacCallum to the new artwork being created in Mata Ortiz. The name "Matiz" is more than simply a contraction of "Mata Ortiz;" it means in Spanish a hue of color, and color is one of the hallmarks of this new jewelry.

matiz jewleryFor those unacquainted with the story of this fledgling industry in Mata Ortiz, Micky Vanderwagen bought the old Pearson Sawmill property adjoining the village, leased out the agricultural operation to Chito Rentería, and converted the buildings into silver workshops. Last August, the first class opened with four students: brothers Ariel, Samuel, and Felipe ("Fili") Rentería Veloz, and Lázaro Ozuna Silveira.

Tuition is nominal. Anyone is welcome to learn. When in four to six months someone has learned enough to begin working at home, that will free up space for another person in the class. What an artist or craftsman produces, he can sell on his own or to Micky, as he likes, and he can obtain supplies from Micky or from any other source.

Micky's goal is to promote a jewelry industry that will have a "wholly new look," one based on Mata Ortiz designs and, so far as possible, using only materials from the region. The full curriculum will include handworking and casting silver, leather tooling, and lapidary, the latter including facetted-gem cutting. As students develop proficiency in silver-working and lapidary, they'll progress toward using gold and precious stones.

This beginning industry builds on the existing strengths of Mata Ortiz, which are mainly the legacy of one person, Juan Quezada. Those strengths include strong design, openness to innovation, a willingness to learn through technical and artistic experiment, and a thoroughgoing dedication to quality. Juan has an inborn sense of quality. I remember vividly that in the beginning years he never tired of stressing that quality was the key to the future of the village. That was a difficult idea to put across to his family and to others in Mata Ortiz. They knew all about hard work and producing things to sell, but to put your heart and soul into what it was you made? It was hard to convey, but Juan succeeded. Today the whole village understands quality.

In yet another important respect Juan stands out. In a family oriented society, he has a rare concern not only for his own family, but for the welfare of the entire village. Once in the early years he made the long trip to Saltillo to visit a tile factory, thinking tiles might provide an industry in Mata Ortiz for those who were unskilled in pottery. But as it turned out, everyone developed skills, so that wasn't necessary.

The Matiz jewelry industry follows in this tradition. Like Mata Ortiz pottery, it is a cottage industry that will stress innovation, strong design, and dedication to quality. The entire village will benefit. The economy of Mata Ortiz is strong but lacks diversity, leaving it vulnerable to the winds of change. Jewelry brings needed diversification. When demand is down for pottery, it will often be up for jewelry, and vice versa. Traders seeking jewelry in the village will see the pottery, and those seeking pottery will see the jewelry.



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