Download PDFs


The Art & Practice of Jicarilla Pottery

(includes instructions on building a micaceous clay pot)

Caring for your Vessel

Ceramics for the Archaeologist




Buying Micaceous Clay

Micaceous Clay is available for sale directly from Felipe Ortega.

Micaceous ClayCost: $2 per pound.

Clay can be shipped in 25 pound bags via USPS.
Cost: $50 plus $10 shipping.

Prices subject to change, so do check when you call Felipe to order clay.

If you live close enough to transport the clay yourself, then you can buy it in up to 50 pound bags.

The clay is hand dug by Felipe's apprentices from traditional clay pits near by and processed at Owl Peak Studio following traditional principles.

"Micaceous clay vatsLong time ago our ancestor women dug the clay with digging sticks but today we use pick and shovel. The clay can be found close to the surface but in the dead of summer it will be as hard as stone to extract, that is why the traditions states that clay should only be dug in Spring time (and with good reason). The clay will have organic matter and small stones both quartz and mica shale. The clay was originally cleaned immediately at the clay pit and only pure clay would be brought back to the camp site for later use. The traditional method for cleaning clay is to add one part clay and two parts water in a large container. With a small atole bowl they would extract a small bit of clayey water and swirl it in the bowl to settle the stones and the organic matter would rise to the top. The organic matter was removed by hand and the clay would be poured into a hole in the ground that would have been lined with deer skins. The stones and other heavy debris would remain in the bottom of the bowl and would be discarded next to the clay pit. The water would saturate the hide and would be absorbed by the ground leaving a most sensuous clay.

Cay drying at Owl Peak studioToday, we still clean clay by adding two parts water but we screen the clay through a window screen. (A finer screen would be great but from my experience it removes too much mica) We allow the clay to dry in the sun in cotton sheets (don't use polyester or you will find that it will further screen your clay right out of the drying hole.)

After the clay can be lifted from the cloth without the clay sticking to it then you must knead the clay as one would dough and set it aside for at least a day to "age". More time does not seem to improve the quality."
from The Art & Practice of Jicarilla Pottery by Felipe Ortega.








Video of Felipe Ortega, Micaceous Clay PotterClick here to view a short video of Felipe talking about his pottery.

Used with permission of Wallace Boss & Boss Productions, creator & editor of "The Muse" New Media Periodical, a DVD Video Magazine.







Engaged Anthropology: Research Essays on North American Archaeology, Ethnobotany, and Museology, Papers in Honor of Richard I. Ford, edited by Michelle Hegmon and B. Sunday Eiselt

A collection of essays based on the 2005 Society for American Archaeology symposium, presenting research that epitomizes Richard I. Ford's approach of engaged anthropology, in which Felipe Ortega has written an essay. [2005. 263 pp, 6 tables, 30 figs, $28. ISBN 0-915703-58-0]


All That Glitters: The Emergence of Native American Micaceous Art Pottery in Northern New Mexico (Paperback) by Duane Anderson. ISBN 978-0-933452-58-9

Felipe Ortega is one of the artists featured prominently in this book. For anyone interested in Micaceous clay pottery, it is a indispensible resource, featuring beautiful photographs of micaceous pottery in different styles.