Leonel Lopez Saenz is a potter from the village of Mata Ortiz. He used to be a farmer, working fields in the area. Then the extended drought in the early 1990s ended that. So he began working with his wife, Elena Rodriguez de Lopez, sanding her pots at first but eventually learning the entire process, the same way she had learned it from Manolo Rodriguez, her younger brother. Leonel got so good at it he became one of the most successful potters in Mata Ortiz and now has people copying his signature style.
It was Oscar Rodriguez who inspired Leonel to go into sgraffito designs. Leonel will often apply slips to a dried clay body using three or four different colors, then begin his sgraffito process with a dental pick to produce his design. The colors revealed in a scratch depend on the depth of the scratch.
Leonel incorporates design elements like fish, birds, wildlife and intricate forest and desert landscapes. He also uses geometric designs, Day of the Dead motifs and Nativity scenes on some of his pieces.