Hector Javier Martinez

Photo of Hector Javier Martinez
Hector Javier Martinez

A decade ago Hector Javier Martinez Mendez was working as a mechanic and gardener. Now he is a famous potter from Mata Ortiz. He originated the black and white Day of the Dead and Night of the Dead sgraffito motifs. In 2014 a large pot of his won the Presidential Award at the Premio Nacional de Ceramica in Tlaquepaque, Mexico.

Since then, his business has flourished, although other potters in Mata Ortiz have been busy doing takeoffs of his designs and styles. Hector's wife, Graciela Martinez de Perez, also has a bigger role now in their business and together, they are introducing new styles and designs based on their trademark Day of the Dead and Night of the Dead series.

I got to watch Hector working on one of his pieces. First he slipped the pot four times with a black manganese slip, letting it dry between slips. Once he felt it was dark enough he picked up his primary working tool: a sewing needle taped to a popsicle stick. Then he began scratching his design in the surface, totally free-hand, creating as he turned the pot in his hands. When he was satisfied, he handed the piece to Graciela and, with a smaller needle, she added embellishments: butterflies and geometrics.

Recently, they have been moving into making black-and-white and polychrome shallow bowls with Day/Night of the Dead motifs. They've also varied the surface colors with various shades of brown and red. I've also seen some very elegant butterfly and geometric designs on variously colored jars with no Day/Night of the Dead motif.

Day of the Dead sgraffito motif on a black on beige pot
Black on beige pot with Day of the Dead sgraffito motif
7 3/4 in H by 6 1/2 in Dia
Sgraffito butterfly and geometric design on a red jar
Red jar with sgraffito butterfly and geometric design
6 in H by 4 in Dia
Sgraffito Night of the Dead motif on a black and beige jar
Black and beige jar with sgraffito Night of the Dead motif
6 1/2 in H by 4 1/4 in Dia
Click to see more info and a larger image
Black and white jar with sgraffito Day of the Dead motif
6 3/4 in H by 4 1/4 in Dia
Measurement includes stand
Sgraffito Night of the Dead motif on a black and white jar
Black and white jar decorated with a sgraffito Night of the Dead motif
8 1/2 in H by 6 1/2 in Dia
Measurement includes stand
Sgraffito Night of the Dead motif on a black and white jar
Black and white jar decorated with a sgraffito Night of the Dead motif
8 1/4 in H by 6 3/4 in Dia
Measurement includes stand
Sgraffito Day of the Dead motif on a black and white jar
Black and white jar decorated with a sgraffito Day of the Dead motif
8 1/4 in H by 7 in Dia
Measurement includes stand
Sgraffito Night of the Dead motif on a black and white jar
Black and white jar decorated with a sgraffito Night of the Dead motif
7 in H by 4 in Dia
Measurement includes stand
Sgraffito Day of the Dead motif on a black and white jar
Black and white jar decorated with a sgraffito Day of the Dead motif
8 in H by 6 1/2 in Dia
Measurement includes stand
Sgraffito Day of the Dead motif ion a black and beige jar
Black on beige jar decorated with a sgraffito Day of the Dead motif
7 1/2 in H by 4 1/4 in Dia
Measurement includes stand
Sgraffito Day of the Dead motif on a black and beige jar
Black and beige jar decorated with a sgraffito Day of the Dead motif
6 3/4 in H by 4 1/4 in Dia
Measurement includes stand
Sgraffito Night of the Dead in the Mexico City Zocala motif on a black and white jar
Black and white jar with a sgraffito Night of the Dead in the Mexico City Zocala motif
18 1/4 in H by 17 1/2 in Dia
Sgraffito Day of the Dead motif on a black and white jar
Black and white jar decorated with a sgraffito Day of the Dead motif
6 1/4 in H by 4 1/4 in Dia
Measurement includes stand
Sgraffito Night of the Dead motif on a black and white jar
Black and white jar decorated with a sgraffito Night of the Dead motif
6 3/4 in H by 4 1/4 in Dia
Sgraffito Night of the Dead motif on a black and white jar
Black and white jar decorated with a sgraffito Night of the Dead motif
8 in H by 6 1/4 in Dia
Measurement includes stand
Sgraffito Night of the Dead design inside a polychrome bowl
Polychrome bowl decorated with a sgraffito Night of the Dead design
2 3/4 in H by 12 in Dia

Mata Ortiz/Casas Grandes Potters