In the 1920s, Ireneo Mendoza came to Mission San Juan Capistrano and with Pastor Father Hutchinson’s permission began producing ceramic wares for the Mission and tourists.  He stayed for several years living within the Soldiers’ Barracks and producing his ceramics on the grounds.  In this image, Mendoza can be seen placing his wares into the kiln he built here at the Mission.

Original Kiln

Seen here are the excavated remains of one of the two original kilns used by Mendoza to fire his ceramics.  The kiln’s is located behind the Education Center, which houses a small ceramics studio and operates summer ceramic classes. 

Museum Collection

Mendoza’s simple, hand formed, mostly unglazed, polished wares reflected the traditional pottery craft of his home and family.  Several examples of his craft were retained for use at the Mission and eventually folded into the museum’s collection.  

Stamped Impressions

Many of these Mendoza ceramics can be identified by stamped impressions typically found on the bottom of the ware.  The Mission has two of these stamps within its collection.


Initially, all the Mendoza ceramics were gathered together and temporarily arranged on open shelving for inventorying and conditions assessment.  While convenient, this side-by-side, open shelving storage method is not ideal for long-term storage within earthquake zones.  It soon became a priority to house these ceramics individually to protect them from seismic activity, and dust accumulations.     

Before Cleaning

After Cleaning

Before Cleaning After Cleaning

Each ceramic is cleaned of dust and dirt by gently sweeping a clean, soft Japanese hake brush over the surface. 


Afterwards, the cleaned ceramics are placed in polyethylene bags to prevent abrasion from packing materials and to exclude these from interior spaces.    

Archival Box

Pictured here is a fully packaged ceramic in its archival box.  The sides of the box are first padded with polyethylene bubble wrap to provide an initial cushion.  Next, shredded acid-free tissue, which has greater conformity, is firmly packed immediately around the ceramic to immobilize it within the box.   

2005 Grant

In December 2005, Mission San Juan Capistrano was awarded a grant from both the California Missions Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities for storage improvements.  With some of these funds, the Mission was able to purchase two museum cabinets, which were used to provide housing for a portion of the Native American basket collection.  As the second of these cabinets had not been filled to capacity, room remained for the storage of the Mendoza ceramics.    

Close Up View

This close-up view shows the boxes neatly arranged on a shelf within the storage cabinet.
Identifying, 3” x 5” color laser jet prints of each ceramic are slipped into polyethylene photo protectors, which are adhered to the exterior of their respected boxes with double-sided tape.  The photos will assist with locating individual ceramics in the future.       

Apprentice Wares

Ceramic production continued at the Mission after Ireneo Mendoza left, though it is unknown to what capacity.  These generally can be identified by their larger, more elaborate construction and the application of glazes, which varied from Mendoza’s simple, unglazed ceramic art.  Historically, these wares were used at the Mission to adorn the Serra Chapel for special ceremonies. 
Recently brought to a central storage facility on the Mission grounds, these apprentice wares await condition assessment, photography, and archival storage packaging.