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Mexican bird pottery on top of books

Mexican Bird Pottery

Kristy Dodson
Kristy Dodson

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It seems that things come my way in cycles or waves. For instance, I started noticing and admiring Mexican bird pottery at antique stores, thrift stores, on Instagram posts, and in other unexpected places. It was not something I was seeking; the birds just kept catching my eye.

Primitive Mexican bird pottery

Tonala’ Mexican Pottery

After several times noticing the Mexican bird pottery, I happened to be in my daughter’s room and what do you know…she had three pieces on her shelf!! Let me introduce you to Tonala’ Mexican pottery. Once you are familiar, its unique look becomes easy to recognize. Since seeing these, I have purchased them in antique stores, thrift stores, and even estate sales!

Three Mexican bird pottery pieces
A sample of my collection of Tonala pottery.
Two Mexican bird pottery pieces
The birds are beautiful from all sides.

Identifying Mexican Pottery

Tonala’ pottery is certainly not just birds. You can find serving pieces, dishes, decorative items, and a whole lot more. However, the birds have caught my attention and I am becoming slightly obsessive about finding them in the most unexpected places. To identify them as Mexican bird pottery, look for MEX to be hand-painted on the underside; on lucky occasions, you may find state abbreviations or the artist’s initials. Some of the birds are primitive while others are simply vintage. Either way, if you find one you have found an artisan’s treasure.

blue pottery with Mexican lettering
The artist identified the bird by location-Mexico
Mexican bird pottery with signature markings
Another form of identification is MEX.

What is Tonala’?

So, what is Tonala’ Pottery? To begin with, Tonala’, Jalisco is in the greater metro area of Guadalajara and is home to one of the largest open-air Mexican craft markets. Tonala’ pottery is made of burnished, petatillo (woven-straw), Canelo (cinnamon), or scented clay and is typically created for decorative use but can also be found as food-safe pottery. The tradition comes from the Tonalteca group, which used clay to produce polished forms. The first designs of these ceramics were inspired by forms found in nature such as vegetables and roots[1]The Ceramics of Tonala’ https://fac.coloradocollege.edu/exhibits/the-ceramics-of-tonala-legacy-of-a-thousand-years/.

Look For The Unusual

Honestly, I would’ve never guessed I would develop an interest in such a random and unique art form, but you just never know what is going to create curiosity within you. Keep your eyes open for the unusual; it just may become a passion or collection.

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References

References
1 The Ceramics of Tonala’ https://fac.coloradocollege.edu/exhibits/the-ceramics-of-tonala-legacy-of-a-thousand-years/

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