native american art

Acoma Pueblo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited pueblos in the Southwest, situated on top
of a massive sandstone mesa.   Acoma is known for its light mineral clay, which when fired, makes
hard, thin-walled vessels.  The pottery is generally decorated with geometric patterns which
represent natural elements such as rain, lightning, and clouds. Floral and animal or bird,
particularly parrot effigies, are often used as well. The pueblo’s signature pottery piece is the large
“olla” or large water jar.  Double-spout “wedding vases” and double handle water “canteens” were
also made quite often at Acoma.

Acoma is unique in being one of the first pueblos to commercially produce pottery for sale to the
public.  Train depots built on Acoma land in the early 1880’s allowed travelers to buy pottery and
other items. Since large pots were harder to pack and transport, smaller inexpensive pottery were
made to sell to tourists. Most of the small pots had simple designs and were simply signed “Acoma”
on the bottom.

In the 1930’s, renowned potters, Lucy Lewis and Marie Chino, started a rebirth of interest in Acoma
pottery. They both developed new abstract designs on their pottery, sometimes covering the entire
surface, and began to sign their pieces. Lucy’s pottery included not only abstract patterns on a
white slip, but the deer with heart line design she would become known for.

Her children, Ann, Andrew, Emma, Dolores, and Carmel, become excellent potters as well. Marie’s
daughters, Carrie, Rose, Grace, and son Gilbert, also become remarkable potters and carried on
the Chino family tradition, passing it down to their children.

Other noted award winning potters from Acoma include Lily Salvador, Frances Pino Torivio,
Dorothy Torivio, known for her fine line geometric and abstract design pots, Barbara and Joseph
Cerno, who are known for their huge polychrome (three or more colors) ollas with parrot and floral
designs. Another outstanding potter is Rebecca Lucario, who makes her pots traditionally then
paints complex designs in the “eye dazzler” style as well as a Mimbres revival style.  Rachel Aragon
is known for her large classic traditional polychrome ollas with bold geometric designs featuring
stylized parrots, and Sandra Victorino is an award-winning potter who also makes large classic ollas
with her own signature swirling bands of geometric designs.

Loretta Joe is an outstanding potter who makes traditional large polychrome olla pots and paints
them with beautiful floral, parrot, and geometric patterns. Another prominent potter is Theresa
Garcia-Salvador, who specializes in hand-coiled, thin-walled Acoma water vessels. She gathers her
own clay then mixes, coils, shapes, and hand paints her pottery using natural pigments with floral
and parrot designs, and fires her pottery outdoors in the traditional manner. She also experiments
with different designs she has seen on prehistoric pots.  Her pot to the right features a prehistoric
design called the “Tularosa Swirl.”

Hopi -Tewa pottery dates back nearly 1,000 years.  Ceramic vessels were constructed of local clay
and crushed sherds were used for temper.  The pottery was made in many forms, some for cooking
and storage, and others for water and ceremonial usage. The Hopi and Tewa peoples were
separate clan groups who merged together a long time ago and today share many cultural
traditions.  They are now known collectively as the Hopi – Tewa.

In the late 1700’s, however, pottery production had nearly disappeared among the Hopi Pueblos,
except for some limited production on First Mesa. The villages on First Mesa include Walpi,
Sichomovi, Hano, and Polacca.  In the late 1800’s, Nampeyo of Hano began to produce pottery
using the designs from an ancient abandoned pueblo called Sikyatki.  

Much of her new style of pottery incorporated the ancient designs and shapes with her own style,
and became known as “Sikyatki Revival” style pottery.  Nampeyo’s pottery became popular among
collectors, which led other First Mesa potters to follow in Nampeyo’s footsteps resulting in a
renaissance in Hopi (Tewa) pottery.

Nampeyo’s daughters, Annie, Nellie, and Fannie, become accomplished potters, and their families
carry on the Nampeyo tradition today.  Other noted Hopi potters include Paqua Naha, also known
as “Frog Woman.”  The word Paqua is Spanish for frog and her pottery is signed with a frog
symbol.  After her death, the name “Frog Woman” was passed onto her own daughter, Joy
Navasie.  The family, including Paqua’s granddaughters, continue to make pottery and sign with a
frog symbol, tadpole, and their initials.

Another major Hopi family is that of Helen Naha, or “Feather Woman.” Helen married Paqua Naha’s
son Archie Naha and soon began to produce their own distinct style of pottery signed with a
feather.  Their children, Burel, Rainy, and Sylvia, are all potters, and the family continues to
produce pottery today.

The Setalla’s are another well-known Hopi pottery making family. Stetson, Agnes (Nahsonhoya,)
Dee, Karen (Namoki), and Gwen, all make pottery after learning from their mother, Pauline, as well
as their grandmothers and aunts. All produce award winning pottery.  Of the ten children born to
Pauline, five are noted to be potters.

Most Hopi pottery is traditionally made of yellow pigmented hand-gathered clay base and varying
shades of slips. The pottery is usually polychrome (two or more colors) and decorated with
geometric or abstract designs.  The Frog Woman and Feather Woman family pottery, however, is
made with a distinguishable white clay slip and is often referred to as “Walpi Polychrome.”

The history of pottery at Jemez Pueblo has been a troubled one, with long periods of absences in
pottery making, then sudden rebirths of pottery production. Consequently, not much is known about
Jemez pottery prior to the 1880’s. Although, some prehistoric black-on-white pottery pieces from the
Jemez Mountains have been recovered.

In the late 1920’s, then again in the 1960’s and 70’s, a revival effort was made with the production
of small tourist pieces decorated with a water-based paint also known as “poster paint” with little
success. Although many of these pieces appear crude compared to the finer pottery of other
pueblos, they do represent a certain charm and style of their own.  Due to the short period of time
“poster paint pottery” was produced, they have become somewhat collectible. Most of these pieces
were made as miniatures in the form of wedding vases, bowls, cups and saucers, canoes,
salt/pepper shakers or animal effigies, and generally less than five inches in width or height. The
Tesuque Pueblo also made some of this style of tourist pottery.

The 1980’s brought about the most successful revival attempt by several families including the
Frauga and Gachupin family.  The Frauga family is leading the way in the production of fine pottery
at Jemez.  Award winning artist, Juanita Frauga, taught her son, Clifford, and daughters, Glendora
Daubs, and Betty Jean Frauga, who are all award winning artists. Glendora is known for her
exquisite, finely carved “sgraffito” pots. Rebecca Gachupin (Zia/Jemez), who was born at Zia, but
also has family and lives at Jemez, is known for her unique creations by blending components of
both Zia pottery and Jemez designs resulting in a sort of “hybrid” vessel.

The 1980’s also brought about a renewed interest in finely carved ceramic “storytellers.”  Jemez
artists have taken the traditional storyteller to new heights literally by making them larger and with
more children. The Sando family is well-known for their storyteller figures. Other unique forms have
emerged more recently such as the horse storytellers made by the Tsosie family.

Jemez potter, Verda Toledo, has developed a style uniquely her own. She has painstakingly
researched and revived the prehistoric “Mimbres” designs and beautifully recreates them on her
pottery bowls. He pots are quickly finding a market with collectors. Alvina Yepa is yet another award
winning potter who has won numerous awards including First place and Best of Division at Santa Fe
Indian Market. She has perfected her own style with a deep carved designs on her jars and vases.

Fannie Loretto is an award winning artist who was the first to create clay masks, and is known for
her beautiful, expressive clown masks.  Her daughter, Kathleen Wall, is also an award winning
artist, known for her creative large clay sculptures of clowns and pueblo women.

Another Jemez artist who is now considered a master potter is Mary Small.  She has also developed
a style, uniquely her own, with her signature blue-gray slip. Her graceful lines and smooth
innovative forms are commendable.  Mary makes large beautiful pots and wedding vases graced
with a signature piece of turquoise. She has also made large elaborate pots depicting miniature
pueblo village scenes complete with doors, vigas, hornos, and kiva ladders.  Mary has won many
awards over the years, including First at Indian Market in Santa Fe, and was chosen artist of the
year by the Indian Arts & Crafts Association in 2002.

    It is held by archaeological excavations and Hopi tribal beliefs that Keresan-speaking people
called Kawaika or “Lake people” migrated from Toko ’nabi, near the junction of the San Juan and
Colorado Rivers and established a pueblo adjacent to the Hopi mesas overlooking Antelope Valley
(Jeddito), calling it Kawaika. It is believed by some sources that it was destroyed by the Spaniards
in 1540 and later abandoned around 1582.

    Laguna Pueblo was first established in 1699, after the Pueblo Revolt, by emigrants from
surrounding areas who had previously fled from Spanish forces. There is evidence, however, with
the discovery of ancient pottery sherds, that the site was inhabited prehistorically. Today, it is part
of the Keresan speaking pueblos, and has over 2,500 square miles of territory.

Early pottery from Laguna was very similar to that of Acoma with large water jars and ollas being
produced around the turn of the century. There is also a close similarity between early Laguna and
Zuni pottery. In the 1880’s, when the railroad was being built, a train depot was established at the
Old Laguna village. By the 1920’s, with the influx of tourism, large scale pottery production
decreased, and small tourist pieces were made for quick sale. By the 1950’s, pottery production at
Laguna was nearly abandoned.

    In the 1970’s two potters brought the traditional pottery styles back from near extinction.  Evelyn
Cheromiah, and a few years later, Gladys Paquin, both considered master potters, researched and
revived some of the old Laguna designs and forms. Evelyn worked under a federal grant to teach
other Laguna artists the techniques of traditional Laguna pottery. She also received a special
award for “encouraging a pottery renaissance.” Evelyn’s daughter, Lee Ann, has also become an
accomplished potter, who has won awards at Indian Market in Santa Fe.

Gladys is an award-winning artist having placed First place and Best of Division at Indian Market.
She makes large ollas with old Laguna designs, and fires her pots outdoors. Both Gladys and
Evelyn’s pots are highly sought after by collectors. Gladys’s son, Andrew Padilla, has established
his own unique style of working with a white slip and forming his pieces into melon shaped pottery.  
He often forms terraced rain cloud lids for his elegant sculptural-like pottery.

According to author Rick Dillingham, “Evelyn Cheromiah, Gladys Paquin, and Lee Ann Cheromiah
are three outstanding potters who are an inspiration to younger potters” at Laguna.

Among Native American cultures, the Southwestern tribes excelled in the creation of pottery.  
Production of pottery began in the Southwest region as early as 100 A.D., with each culture eventually
developing their own unique styles.  These styles were influenced by the needs of the people and the
availability of clay and materials.

Most Native American pottery was originally made for a functional purpose within each individual
society.  Common uses included cooking, storage, and the transportation of food and water.  Women
were the primary pottery makers.  Since pottery was made from the earth, many clay vessels were
considered sacred and used in certain religious ceremonies.

With the opening of the railroad in the late 1800’s, tourists began to travel to the region marking the
beginning of the modern era in Southwest pottery.  Old patterns and styles became more artistic and
pottery became smaller for easier packing to appeal to tourists.  Roadside stands were set up near
the railroad, and later along the major highways near the pueblos.

Designs on southwest pottery range from abstract, geometric or floral, to animal or bird imagery.  
Many of these designs reflect, and are symbolic of mythological themes, stories, or religious beliefs,
and continue to be painted today on contemporary pottery.  It has been said that every pot tells a story.
Theresa Garcia Salvador
Loretta Joe
Loretta Joe
Darin Victorino
Theresa Garcia Salvador
Earlene Sanchez
Margaret Seymour
Acoma Bowls, ca. 1930s
Doris Patricio
Darin Victorino
B, Ramirez
Delores Lewis
Marianne Navasie
Stetson Setalla
Fannie Polacca Nampeyo
ca. 1920s
Joy Navasie (Frog Woman)
Adelle Lalo Nampeyo
Agnes Nahsonhoya
Pauline Setalla
Dee Setalla
Nona Naha
Verda Toledo
Helen Sando
Rebecca Gachupin
Verda Toledo
Alvina Yepa
Mary Small
Gladys Paquin
Evelyn Cheromiah
Gladys Paquin, ca. 1980s
Laguna Pitcher, ca. 1920s
Lee Ann Cheromiah
Evelyn Collateta
Roberta Youvella Silas
Clinton Polacca Nampeyo
Poster Paint Pottery
ca. 1960s - 1970s
Fannie Loretto
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