Your Guide to Southwestern Native American Pottery
Promoting Potters: Past, Present, & Future
HOPI-TEWA VIRTUAL MUSEUM
MEET THE POTTERS:
Rachel Cuva or Cuya
Dalee, Dahlee, or Da Tse
Lana Yvonne David
Nellie Nampeyo Douma
Carol or Caroline Duwyenie
Ruth Namingha James
Loretta Navasie Koshiway
Annie Healing Nampeyo
Beatrice Naha Nampeyo
Bonnie Chapella Nampeyo
C. Naha Nampeyo
Daisy Hoee Nampeyo
Darlene Vigil Nampeyo
Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo
Gary Polacca Nampeyo
Hisi Quotskuyva Nampeyo
Iris Youvella Nampeyo
James Garcia Nampeyo
Melda Navasie Nampeyo
Neva Polacca Choyou Nampeyo
Pricilla Namingha Nampeyo
Rachel Namingha Nampeyo
Tonita Hamilton Nampeyo
Tom Polacca Nampeyo
Fannie Polacca (Myron)
Camille Hisi Quotskuyva
Dextra Quotskuyva Nampeyo
Dianna Tahbo Howato
Wallace Youvella, Jr.
The Hopi people are believed to be the surviving members of the Kayenta Branch of the Hisatsinom. The Hopis were first visited by the Coronado Expedition in 1540 as well as other brief encounters with Spanish explorers that had little effect on the people during this time. It wasn't until 1628 when Father Francisco Porras and two other padres came to Hopi land that many new changes were seen in the Hopi life style as well as influences in their pottery. Along with the establishment of missions, sheep were also introduced, not long after a change was seen in the firing of Hopi pottery. The Hopis abandoned the traditional use of coal as a firing fuel source and started using sheep dung. Pottery fired with coal reaches temperatures around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the sheep dung fueled fires only reach 950 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus Hopi pottery became thicker and heavier than it had been in previous times. Vessel forms now not only included hemispherical bowls and globular jars, but new Spanish and Mexican influenced forms that imitate wheel thrown pottery such as plates and cups with ring bases can be seen. The Mission Era came to an end in 1680 when the Hopis joined other Pueblo Indians of New Mexico in the Pueblo Rebellion. The Tewa Tribe, during the Pueblo Revolt, were pushed from their land in New Mexico and settled on First Mesa, now part of the Hopi Reservation.
In 1775, historic records talk about a drought and crop failures along with an outbreak of small pox which was introduced by the Spaniards. Epidemics of the small pox continue at intervals over the next couple decades with severe outbreaks being recorded in 1853 and 1854. It was at this time that a large number of Hopis migrated to the Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico. Staying several years before returning home to the Hopi mesas, potters learned new techniques, shapes, and designs. The potters now produced a white slip that they would cover their yellow clay with. The slip had a different shrinkage than the base clay, which produced a crackled finish. These new techniques produced a pottery type called Pollaca Black-on-White and Polacca Polychrome. The favorite new shape the Hopis learned from the Zuni is a bowl with out-curving rim, made for serving stews. Hopi pottery was made for the potter's family, friends, and for trade.
Americans began to arrive in the Hopi Villages around the 1870's and 1880's. Trading posts were established and now potters could make their wares to trade for coffee, sugar, white flour, cloth, metal cooking utensils, and china dinnerware. The most famous potter from this time is Nampeyo. Nampeyo had started using prehistoric designs on her own pottery somewhere between 1885 and 1890, no doubt inspired by sherds found in the area, these designs were painted on the grayish-white crackled surface used by all the Hopi potters of the time. Between 1895 and 1900, Sityatki Ruin was being excavated by Dr. Jesse Walter Fewkes. It was at this time Nampeyo stopped the use of slip and finished her pieces by polishing, a revival of a technique used in late prehistoric times. The use of sheep dung as a fuel source for firing the pottery continues, the ending product being a softer, lower fired, thicker, and slightly heavier example of Sityatki Polychrome.
Other potters of First Mesa quickly followed Nampeyo's revival and soon there was two types of Hopi pottery: those for sale/trade or those made for home use. Pottery for sale came in a variety of forms at the request of the traders; bowls, jars, ladles, canteens, and a large variety of small trinkets were made for the tourist market. The Zuni style stew bowls, bowls for piki dough, and cornmeal were produced for home use. Very soon after the use of white slip for sale and for personal use was abandoned.
By 1920 the quality of Hopi pottery deteriorated, the demand, far outweighing the supply, gave way to a quickly made or rushed product in order to produce the quantity needed. Every potter was busy turning out tourist trinkets from pottery ashtrays to pottery cowboy hats and salt and pepper shakers. Simpler geometric designs were employed, the black paint became fugitive and easily rubbed off. Sometime in the 1920's a gentleman named Frank Applegate from Santa Fe went out to First Mesa. It is said that he tried to help the potters by suggesting adding sodium silicate to the black paint for better quality. Frank Applegate is also attributed to the introduction of the tall vase-like cylinder shape which became very popular and can be found up to three feet high (made for umbrella stands).
Around the 1930's and 1940's very few potters could make the large plain storage jars, cooking pots, and canteens. All household tasks that once were done using traditionally made pottery were now replaced by purchased machine made items. Potters now made wares strictly for the tourist market. In 1930, The Museum of Northern Arizona held the first "Hopi Craftsman Exhibition". Potters were encouraged to produce their finest made vessels for entry into the exhibition. Mary-Russell F. Colton also promoted returning to traditional Hopi styles and shapes and also suggested placing a name or symbol on works for individual recognition. It is not the Hopi way to draw attention to one-self, but over the next several decades potters started signing their work.
Hopi potters use locally gathered clay, which fires a gold or yellow color. Sometimes several layers of sandstone slip is applied to the clay, which will make the vessel a white color. The designs are painted with beeweed, Hopi mustard, hematite, and different types of clay. The pots are then fired with sheep dung. The dung is used to build a "beehive-shaped" dome around the pottery, then the entire dome is set on fire. It takes almost all day to fire the pots.
Fred Harvey Postcard of a Hopi Pottery Maker
Postcard of Oraibi, a Hopi Pueblo
Postcard of a Hopi with basket and hanging dried chili peppers.
Nampeyo, master Hopi Potter, and one of her daughters.
Large pottery canteens brought water to the Mesas.
This page last revised: 02/07/2013
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