Southwest New Mexico Clay Arts Trail


By Victoria Chick


ON BIG BLEND RADIO: As part of Big Blend Radio’s Celebrate Music and The Arts Festival, contemporary figurative artist Victoria Chick joins the show as special guest co-host and talks about the Southwest New Mexico Clay Arts Trail. Listen to the podcast in the Soundcloud player below.

If you love the feel of a smooth clay mug in your hands as you savor your morning coffee, glory in the color of a richly glazed pot, are intrigued about building with adobe, have wondered how sets of handmade ceramics can be both unique and the same, or ever thought about the history of ceramics, you are sure to enjoy a trip exploring the Southwest New Mexico Clay Arts Trail.

The Southwest New Mexico Clay Arts Trail, sometimes referred to as the “Trail” in this article, is encompassed by the counties of Luna, Grant, Catron, and Hidalgo in an area ranging from high desert to forested mountains in the southwest corner of New Mexico. The Trail is the result of an idea that grew out of appreciation for historic and contemporary creators using clay in multiple ways from totally utilitarian to totally decorative. Its mission is to creatively develop a clay market by bringing purchasers and artists together.

Members of the Southwest New Mexico Clay Arts Trail include galleries, museums, studios, a handmade production factory, as well as historic sites with clay related history, and events.  Silver City, located along the Southwest New Mexico Clay Arts Trail, is the setting for CLAY, an annual week-long festival celebrating clay in all its forms.  Begun in 2012 and usually held in late July, CLAY has a different emphasis each year, but always includes an international juried show, guest artists, educational opportunities, a clay art market, and plenty of fun. More:

Western New Mexico University Museum in Silver City is home to the NAN Ranch Collection. This collection is said to be the largest and most complete collection of Mimbres materials in existence from a single prehistoric Mimbres site, and the largest and most comprehensive permanent interpretative exhibition of Mimbres pottery and artifacts in the world. The museum also houses prehistoric Southwestern pottery of other indigenous people, baskets, and mid – 20th century San Ildefonso and Santa Clara Pueblo pottery.  The Deming Museum in Deming, New Mexico displays excellent examples of Mimbres pottery in collections gifted by three local families.

Individual clay studios are all along the trail. Studio visitation is an opportunity to talk with and watch artists who may be throwing clay on a wheel or engaged in hand building a clay sculpture. The Clay used might be porcelain, terra cotta, or stoneware. Firing methods vary too, from giant natural or propane gas kilns that reach very high temperatures, to electric kilns, to raku firing in which red hot pottery is transferred to a metal container with leaves or other fine, natural combustible materials that deposit their minerals on the hot clay making beautiful iridescent colors. It is necessary to make an appointment to visit private studios but owners are usually able to accommodate visitors.

Galleries representing clay artists abound from Pinos Altos and Silver City, south to Deming and Rodeo near the Mexican border, east to the Mimbres Valley, and west to Reserve.

Clay related historic sites should not be missed. The Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, the Mimbres Cultural site, Shakespeare Ghost Town, and adobe buildings on the Silver City self-guided walking tour are educational,  giving visitors a sense of how integral to life clay has been to those who lived in this part of New Mexico.

Public Murals, many of them made of clay tile, are to be found in Silver City and outlying communities of Grant County. They are the result of work sponsored by the Mimbres Region Arts Council and the collaboration of professional artists working with students who are guided to discuss the project, design it, and use the tile materials to enliven walls. Over 50 murals have been completed. A good place to begin this Tour is looking at the walls outside the Silver City Visitor Center.

Traveling the Southwest New Mexico Clay Arts Trail is an enriching experience. Take your time, share your interest, and come home with clay purchases you can’t do without.

Updated information to the complete list of Southwest New Mexico Clay Arts Trail members, a map, and phone numbers can be accessed at

Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico. She received a B.A. in Art from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and awarded an M.F.A. in Painting from Kent State University in Ohio. Visit her website at

Cow Trail Art Studio - Silver City, NM

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